Eleven tries romp in the sun
New pitch, new shirts, all round quality performance and four tries for debutant
Heathfield 73 Gillingham Anchorians 13
Heathfield overwhelmed Gillingham Anchorians with a first half display of high quality with a final count of eleven tries to two as they celebrated the first game on the refurbished pitch outside the clubhouse and the first use of a new strip. The game ended with a remarkable performance by a young player making his first appearance at this level.
In balmy conditions with little wind the visitors had first use of the slight slope but Heathfield almost immediately regained possession from the kickoff and good hands gave Ollie Brown a chance in the right hand corner but he was just denied. However the home lineout was overthrown and Oli Robertshaw was the grateful recipient to dive for the opening try, converted by Chester Duff with barely two minutes on the clock (7-0).
Securing the ball from the kickoff Heathfield started to play in a positive confident style which had been hinted at but not achieved in the two previous games this season. This was soon characterised by a storming trundle by Fraser Goatcher, the first of several by him in this game. Repeated drives soon produced good quick ball and Ollie Brown duly finished with his usual accuracy, converted by Duff (14-0).
Soon afterwards more quick ball allowed Bryn Jones to make the first of many quality contributions on the day as his break and good ground gained was carried on by Munch May and finished by Ben Boorman, converted by Duff, with less than fifteen minutes gone (21-0).
Heathfield then drove back into the left hand corner and after Robertshaw had gone close, Goatcher was able to work his way over in the corner for the bonus point (26-0).
Gillingham immediately demonstrated that they were not going to lie down and were rewarded with a penalty (26-3).
The next home try came from another solid scrum for Robertshaw to make initial ground and put May over (33-3). Brown then collected his second on the day and in the last play of the half May again enjoyed a scoring pass from Robertshaw who emerged with the ball from a breakdown under the visitors’ posts (45-3).
This half was a fine display of attacking rugby based on a secure scrum, effective lineout and decent return at the breakdown. Forwards and backs linked well with impressive individual skill. David Bayly is functioning at a high level at present both at the breakdown and carrying the ball. Jones controlled the game beautifully while Ethan Walker, Duff, May and Harry Reilly had some delightful interchanges.
Gillingham seem to have problems with travelling into Sussex this year and did not help themselves with a front rower arriving after the kickoff. However they showed fine resilience and refusal to lie down for the rest of the game. There was no score for nearly thirty minutes in the second half and the visitors had the better of this period. It can be argued that Heathfield relaxed with the game apparently won but it should also be noted that at this stage the penalty count went heavily against the home side, resulting in Haidar Maliki collecting a yellow card. Gillingham deservedly collected the first score in the half with a try from a lineout catch and drive (45-8). Heathfield captain Ollie Smith duly gave his team a rollicking behind the posts, urging them to regain concentration. He then led by example in charging over for a try under the posts, converted by Duff (52-8). However the visitors again refused to accept the inevitable and scored another try (53-13).
This was the end of the good news for them as the last few minutes were dominated by a quite remarkable sequence by Boorman. This was his first appearance at this level and he would have been content with a solid all round performance up to that point and his early try. However he now scored three tries in five minutes as he terrorised his opposite number: one came from an ‘interesting’ cross kick from May which Boorman retrieved and the other two demonstrated a keen finisher’s instinct. Four tries on a first senior performance in a competitive league match is a noteworthy achievement.
Duff converted nine of the eleven conversions on the day and, like Boorman, is one of the Colts making a very positive impact on the season. And there are more to come as the team average age steadily reduces.
Heathfield can feel that they have now got their season up and running after two disappointing results. On this showing and on a level playing field they will be a match for any side in this league.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit Old Dunstonians (10 October 2pm). Last year the home side was successful on each occasion in the equivalent fixtures.