Heathfield mauled out of Senior Vase
The Exiles rolling maul proved to be the decisive weapon in an otherwise close game.
London Exiles 27 Heathfield 0
One of the old sayings in rugby, as in many competitive sports, is that if you find something your opponent doesn’t like, then keep doing it. London Exiles gave an excellent demonstration of this as they secured a comfortable win over Heathfield by four tries to nil, all of their tries coming from rolling mauls, mainly off lineouts.
Heathfield travelled with a limited squad (for some fairly weak and disappointing reasons) and were not helped by appalling traffic which added an hour to the anticipated journey time. Sensible negotiations between the two managements allowed the visitors enough time for a minimal warm up.
It would not have been surprising if the home team had taken initial advantage of these circumstances to seize control of the game. However after an initial surge, including an early harbinger of doom for the visitors i.e. a rolling maul, the home team were driven back upfield. After ten minutes Heathfield were starting to get into the game although a long range penalty chance drifted wide. Especially in this first period Andy Noble was quite outstanding with athletic commitment all over the field and coupled with his influential lineout efforts Heathfield coach Dave Jones naturally singled him out after the game for particular praise.
Heathfield generally had the better of the first half with majority possession but the Exiles are a well organised team in some key areas, including defence. Jess Muir and Fraser Goatcher were making some useful ground ball in hand but resulting penetration was never achieved.
Lineouts were pretty even but Heathfield established a distinct edge in the scrummage which might have been exploited more effectively. Towards the end of the half Muir and Dylan Eames were carrying injuries which may well explain why the home team finished the half looking stronger.
The half time score of 0-0 was a fair reflection of two teams cancelling each other out. Both clubs are having moderate league seasons and confidence is limited so it was not surprising that the first team to score went on to win the game.
The Exiles survived some early second half pressure and a break out took them into the visitors 22 from where they eventually established a rolling maul. Some Heathfield players were insistent afterwards that the ball had been held up but the referee decided otherwise and that was pretty much that (5-0). A similar score followed soon afterwards (12-0) with Richard Cooley collecting a yellow card for his (allegedly illegal) defensive efforts.
Even when a man short the Heathfield scrummage was not in trouble and the visitors had enough possession to make their mark on the game. Some generous interpretation of the offside line, combined with Munch May at scrumhalf having a nightmare, meant that Bryn Jones at fly half was receiving poor quality ball all day but he nonetheless created some decent situations.
The Exiles collected two more tries from the same process as their first two with the addition of a penalty. Heathfield had a number of chances in the last quarter but the home defensive organisation proved adequate.
This was a match between two similar sides but the home team found the key to unlock the result. Heathfield are a side in development and they have still some areas of organisational weakness as the Exiles demonstrated today – lessons will have been learnt from today’s defensive fallibilities.
This Saturday Heathfield entertain old friends Pulborough in a London SE3 League match (11 Oct 3pm).