Haywards Heath just win the battle of the Heaths
Visitors' defence the critical factor
Heathfield 16 Haywards Heath 21
Haywards Heath (HH) just won the battle of the Heaths as they withstood extended second half pressure by the home side before snatching an unlikely win with an interception try. Given the relative league positions Heathfield will be glad to have collected a bonus point but the chief emotion in the clubhouse afterwards was frustration at allowing an important victory to slip away.
HH had some early pressure into the bottom corner but it immediately became apparent that the Heathfield scrum had a distinct edge and enabled a safe exit from the home 22. Nonetheless HH worked back into that corner and from a lineout an HH backrower broke through several tackles and was adjudged to have scored – in fact he lost control of the ball before grounding but the referee was unsighted by a pile of bodies (0-7).
Shortly afterwards Tom Pritchard
had to retire with a gash on his nose which allowed Ben Jones to make his second appearance at this level and he was noted with some gutsy tackling. Heathfield were starting to get into the game and most of this period was in the visitors’ half. After 15 minutes the home scrummage drove the visitors off their own ball, Oli Robertshaw made good yards into the left hand corner and then quick ball was moved to Ollie Smith
who flicked the ball on to fellow prop Fraser Goatcher
at full trundle and he duly boshed his way over the necessary seven yards for an important try, duly converted by Harry Reilly
The game was fluctuating all over the pitch with neither side able to take control. George Gomersall
at full back now made the first of several effective contributions with a big run into the visitors’ half and at the resulting breakdown the visitors’ number 5 was binned for malpractice. This was Gomersall’s first appearance for Heathfield this season due to other commitments and he became the 49th person to pull on a 1st team shirt this season. Reilly slotted the resulting penalty.
Heathfield looked to exploit the extra man and achieved a good attacking position under the home balcony. However an attacking scrum went wrong and HH were able to hack the ball downfield. This was one of a number of occasions on the day when home errors spoiled match winning opportunities.
HH now had one penalty chance but it drifted wide. However Reilly made no mistake at the other end with a similar opportunity (13-7).
In the final moments of the half HH collected their second try which was very similar to their first as an attacking lineout in the bottom corner was driven on for their hooker to work his way over (13-14).
At half time Heathfield will have felt that they had a realistic chance of a great result over their higher-placed opponents and indeed almost all of the second period was in the visitors’ half. They had majority possession from a dominant scrum and probably shaded the lineout where HH had difficulties while Haidar Maliki had another excellent day securing plenty of good ball under pressure. Heathfield afterwards felt that they had not gained enough benefit from the scrummage as scrums were often reset when they had been going forward or they were instructed to use the ball while still advancing.
HH will deservedly take much credit from their stout-hearted defensive performance as they were trapped in their own 22 for most of this period. Their number 8 was impressive in securing ball at the base of a scrum generally in retreat and often making some yards in heavy traffic.
was catching the eye with some important carries but HH generally contained the home forwards pick-and-go while their rush defence just about contained the home backs.
At one point Robertshaw looked to be about to score but was oddly recalled for an earlier knock on when a penalty advantage was being played for Heathfield. With fifteen minutes left skipper Ollie Smith
felt confident enough to opt for a scrummage at a kickable penalty but the chance was botched.
With just minutes remaining another promising Heathfield attack into the left hand corner came to grief as the visitors’ scrum half, who had a decent game overall, intercepted on his own 22 and had the pace to score at the other end. The conversion meant that Heathfield looked likely to get nothing out of the game (13-21).
Thankfully some justice was done as Heathfield charged back into the visitors’ half and Reilly secured the losing bonus point with his fourth successful kick on the day.
Later the 2nd team returned to the clubhouse with an away win at Hove to add to their recent defeat of Haywards Heath 2’s suggesting that the club has some depth at present.
Heathfield head into the holiday period in their familiar position just above the relegation zone. Today’s game demonstrated that they are very competitive with any team in this league. So far injuries and availability issues have frustrated an undoubtedly talented group of players from delivering the results of which they are capable. With few home games remaining because of quirks in the fixtures list, player commitment will be critical with plenty of tough away games where they will need to scrap for bonus points which look likely to be decisive in this always tight league table.
Heathfield restart away to Old Alleynians on 6th January 2018.