Heathfield collect two valuable points away from home
Cold and variable surface handicap good intentions by both sides
Old Alleynians 15 Heathfield 15
A keenly contested game ended with the points shared as neither side could land the decisive blow. Given Heathfield’s poor away form in recent years in this league this will be regarded as an important two points gained rather than bemoaning a missed win opportunity. On a cold day the very variable pitch had much good ground but also some areas of bog that handicapped both teams who mostly attempted to play open rugby.
Both sides had penalty chances in the first ten minutes but neither was successful. This was probably a fair reflection on the game thus far as mistakes by both sides restrained some otherwise open intentions.
Alleynians briefly thought that they had secured a first score as their no 8 collected the ball from a messy attacking lineout and charged over almost unopposed – but he was recalled for a knock on in the lineout. Indeed the home side probably had the better of this period as a number of Heathfield penalties and mistakes kept the visitors in their own half.
The first try came as the game entered the second quarter when a home attacking lineout was efficiently exploited through a couple of phases and eventually a back rower dived over (7-0).
Heathfield soon charged back as good ball was driven into the home 22 through several phases before it was moved wide with a five to three overlap – but the pass in midfield was botched and the chance went begging. Fraser Goatcher
caught the eye several times with some characteristic charges and offloads – although reports of him having tackled were later being queried by some sober observers. Henry Armstrong
was doing some good work on the wing at this stage but it rarely reached him in the second half.
On the half hour Alleynians stretched their lead with good support running into space, aided by some poor tackling, for a well-taken try in the left hand corner, crucially not converted (12-0).
One of the key moments in the game came just before half time as Nick Cook
, who had a fine all round game, broke through the middle of a confused situation and made good yards before finding Lewis Headland
who finished comfortably. (12-5).
In the first two scrums Heathfield looked to have a considerable advantage but the home scrummage managed to stabilise that phase and while Heathfield clearly had an edge it was never overwhelming – and the home number eight often made good yards from difficult possession. The home lineout worked well all day and they probably edged that phase.
Ollie Stables had to retire as a recent illness caught up with him and Shrek Watkins arrived to provide his customary solid reassurance.
In the first few minutes of the second half the Heathfield pack asserted itself with some powerful pick and go which ended with Haidar Maliki working his way over under the posts, duly converted by Reilly (12-12).
Both sides were having periods of dominance with the home team always looking dangerous on the counter. Their full back, who had a very effective game, probably enjoyed some poor kicking out of hand by Heathfield and he often ran ball back very dangerously. In contrast Heathfield looked to build phases principally through their forwards before releasing their backs.
was noted with several excellent carries in heavy traffic and a couple of serious tackles. Tom Glenn
at fly half was making a welcome return from injury and generally got his line moving but, as usual, the lack of training or match time together for yet another combination meant that they rarely achieved penetration. Reilly also did some good work in defence while Chester Duff
making his first appearance this season looked classy but was never quite able to escape the effective home tacklers.
However Duff did make an important contribution as the game entered the last quarter when, playing penalty advantage, he dropped a goal from some thirty yards out (12-15).
had been making his usual physical contribution but he now had to retire with an injury for Guy Quitterton to make just his second, and decent, appearance at this level.
A few minutes later Alleynians levelled the score with a penalty and we looked set for a tense final period. Both sides had chances but the game eventually subsided in a series of errors and missed chances as the cold and the pitch took their toll.
Cook was the standout performer for Heathfield on a day which again demonstrated both the strength and weaknesses of Heathfield’s current circumstances. Duff was the 50th person to pull on a first team shirt this season so there are plenty of worthwhile players in the squad – but a routine six changes from the previous match means there is little opportunity for units to develop better understanding. Notably of the team that started against Alleynians in this season’s earlier fixture, just four were on the pitch today.
Next Saturday Heathfield entertain Barking (13 Jan 2.00).