Park House squeeze past penalty-hit Heathfield
Home lineout provides platform for final result
Park House 17 Heathfield 12
Heathfield has often found Park House difficult opponents and that again applied this week as after a close contest the home side took the lead for the first time to win the game with almost the last act in the match.
In excellent sunny conditions with minimal wind, and after some fine hospitality for VPs and guests in Park House’s refurbished clubhouse, the early phases were unspectacular with neither side dominating. The home lineout was soon noticed as working well while Heathfield’s scrummage looked to have an early edge. Park House had majority possession but their backs failed to make any impression. Indeed their main attacking weapon throughout the game appeared to be the drive from a lineout which they do very well.
Heathfield are not yet functioning as a team and seemed to lack intensity at this stage, standing back slightly and waiting for the ball to become available. There are a lot of things going right but they have to be made to happen.
Towards the end of a fairly unmemorable half Heathfield finally secured some decent ball after an Oli Robertshaw trundle and Munch May found Harry Reilly who released Ollie Brown into a lovely touchline run beating a couple of opponents before giving a simple scoring pass almost at the try line (0-5).
At half time Heathfield will have felt that they had the situation under control. The backs were crying out for the ball and the scrum had a definite edge throughout the game. Noticeably the mature home hooker was actually trying to make an early strike for the ball on the Heathfield put in but refs are just not looking for this nowadays. It didn’t do him any good since Heathfield just drove over and recovered the ball each time. Bryn Jones was noted with some important tackles and some fine early line kicking. May had another effective and combative afternoon and often disrupted the base of the home scrum.
From the half time restart Heathfield initially secured the ball and looked to be running the ball back in a promising move but a simple spilled ball gave the home side a scrum in a good attacking position. Soon a penalty gave the home side an attacking lineout in the left hand corner and eventually they drove over for an unconverted try (5-5).
This was probably the kick that Heathfield needed as they started to produce some decent rugby. A lineout on the left hand side just in the home half was well secured and good hands with a simple miss move in the centre gave Brown another one on one and he duly finished clinically in the right hand corner with Harry Reilly converting well (5-12).
With half an hour remaining that could have been the decisive moment and Heathfield will have looked to repeat the exercise where possible.
However the home side had other ideas and most of the rest of the game was in the visitors’ half as they played to their strengths (i.e. lineout catch and drive) and benefitted from a quite remarkable penalty count in their favour. In the first half there had been six penalties against each side. In the second half there was one against Park House and thirteen against Heathfield. This inevitably resulted in three yellow cards against Haidar Maliki, David Bayly and Dylan Eames.
Even when the Heathfield scrum was reduced to seven men, they still dominated the home eight in the tight with Oliver Stables and Richard Poole putting in decent shifts as replacements.
The insistent pressure was generally being held by Heathfield. One seriously threatening break in the centre was just contained under the posts and one kickable penalty for the home side came back off the post.
Generally Park House worked the touchlines and with the benefit for much of the half of an extra man it was not surprising when they collected a second try from another catch and drive, albeit again unconverted (10-12).
Heathfield seemed to be withstanding the pressure in the final minutes even with two players in the bin. Yet another lineout drive on the Heathfield line was being joined by backs from both sides but this was again being contained so, for a change Park House went wide. The ball was dropped a few yards out from the visitors’ posts and went forward, but the home player just picked the ball up again and scored (17-12).
The few remaining seconds in the game were only notable for the lack of a penalty against Heathfield.
This Heathfield side will be winning games soon as they learn to work together as a team. The raw materials are there but they have yet to gel as a unit.
Next week Heathfield entertain Gillingham Anchorians (3 October 2pm).
The associated album has some fine pics provided by Harriet Mason Pearson.