Heathfield overcome conditions and Hastings
In difficult conditions Heathfield eventually secured a seven tries to two win over Hastings.
Hastings & Bexhill 15 Heathfield 43
Heathfield were convincing winners in this Bob Rogers Sussex Cup match. Both teams were handicapped by absences and illness but it was a well-contested event finely controlled by a pleasingly unobtrusive referee.
Intermittent rain and occasional gusty wind made this a difficult day on which to play rugby. Although mostly firm underneath the surface was always slippery so ball handling was never easy and this was reflected in the high level of handling errors. Nonetheless this was a generally entertaining game in which both teams played a full part.
Early Heathfield scrum pressure gave them decent field position and Fraser Goatcher soon charged over for the first try (0-5). Goatcher often carried well throughout the game and was involved in a number of subsequent scores.
While Hastings are having a difficult season, they are not short of spirit and their pack in particular often took the game to the visitors. Hastings had a couple of periods of pressure but never threatened the Heathfield try line at this stage although they did convert a penalty approaching the half hour (3-5).
In spite of the unhelpful conditions (or perhaps because of) Ollie Brown frequently popped up near breakdowns and he, along with Goatcher, was involved in some fine periods of play as Heathfield perhaps tried to play too much dry-weather rugby. The next Heathfield try was scored by Andy Noble after a tap penalty was taken on by Bryn Jones and then Ethan Walker making good penetration (3-10). Noble had his usual (but still much appreciated) impressive game with a number of eye-catching athletic lineout takes.
Hastings soon replied with an efficiently taken catch and drive from a lineout after Heathfield backchat at a penalty gave the home team better position (10-10). However Heathfield finished the half in emphatic style as Brown was on hand for a clinical finish after Ollie Robertshaw had cleaned up loose ball, linking with Goatcher who then found Brown on an unstoppable line, duly converted by Ken Hellier (10-17).
Whatever hopes the home team had at half time, the outcome of the game was soon decided in the second half as Hellier benefitted from a precise Noble pass (10-24). Then Damien Pestell was particularly noted in an all team handling movement which ended with skipper Ollie Smith crashing over to make the result look inevitable (10-29).
However Hastings soon responded with their second try from a catch and drive (15-29) but the rest of the game belonged to the visitors. First Joe Sandford, on for Lee Vockins, scored his first and excellent try at this level as he ran back a home kick out of defence and, after collecting a return pass from Jim Stevenson-Wright, had the pace to touch down in the left hand corner (15-36). Finally Pestell enjoyed a beautifully timed pass from Stevenson-Wright following a tapped penalty (15-43).
Pestell and Vockins had been first team regulars in previous seasons but both showed today that they can still make useful contributions in spite of their supposedly advanced years. However the Heathfield coaches will have taken particular note of a very decent contribution from James Bowler on the flank on his first appearance at this level.
This Saturday Heathfield again play Hastings, this time at Cross-In-Hand in a SE3 league game (10 Jan 2.15).