Bonus point away win at Eastbourne
Heathfield made better use of conditions on a miserable day
Eastbourne 3 Heathfield 27
Heathfield secured a five try away win in miserable conditions with a controlled and disciplined display that was probably their best performance this season so far. The points count may not have been high but the conditions would have prevented many sides from achieving. There was relatively little back play but the Heathfield pack were the decisive factor.
Heathfield won the toss and chose to play up the slope, into the strong wind and irregular heavy showers. The game was effectively won in the first half as Eastbourne were unable to benefit from the elements in their favour.
The home side had some early pressure and it soon became apparent that their No 8, James Grey, would be a significant force. He made useful yards off the back of the scrum throughout the game and often broke first tackles. However he was not normally finding supporting runners and the Heathfield defence was able to contain this serious threat.
Towards the end of the first quarter Eastbourne opened the scoring with a penalty (3-0) but this was a rarity as the home side were on the wrong side of the penalty count in the first half by 11 to 4. Inevitably this resulted in a yellow card for their loose head. Heathfield were not able to take scoring advantage of the extra man but play was increasingly in the home half in spite of the slope. With half an hour gone they produced a fine series of phases with good support play involving most of the team and worked from their own 22 into the home 22. There a poorly defended breakdown gave Munch May the opportunity to stroll over for a critical score, safely converted by Chester Duff (3-7).
Heathfield had majority possession throughout the game. Lineouts were important on the day given the conditions and here Heathfield had their best lineout performance this year. Henry Ross ruined any number of the home side front ball, even occasionally securing it. This meant that Heathfield could kick for touch with realistic hopes of regaining possession. David Bayly continues to impress by seemingly always being within five yards of the ball and his tackling is hugely influential. Eric Tamsen did plenty of hard inconspicuous work and was part of a scrummage that had generally had a definite edge against larger opponents.
The home supporters were saying that the slope and conditions were worth at least a dozen points so the writing was on the wall at half time with the elements in Heathfield’s favour in the second half. Haidar Maliki had an excellent combative game until he was replaced by veteran Kobe Tonkin making a welcome reappearance and Fraser Goatcher took over at loose head from the evergreen Richard Cooley.
However for a long time Eastbourne denied the visitors with some stout and spirited defence and they may have briefly entertained hopes of an unlikely outcome. Almost all of the play was in the home half thanks to sensible kicking by Bryn Jones and Duff, both of whom had solid games. Finally with a quarter of the game remaining Ross stole a home lineout with a fine athletic leap and the pack duly gathered to drive over for a try for Oli Robertshaw (3-12).
Having secured the restart Heathfield immediately drove back down the slope with Goatcher making useful yards before Ollie Smith and Ed Koops continued the good work and finally Robertshaw was able to touch down for a fine team try (3-17).
The bonus point try was then fittingly secured by Heathfield skipper Ollie Smith who charged over from some yards out (3-22). Smith has grown in stature as a captain while remaining highly effective in his role in the front row.
The last score came from a quickly taken tap on the home 22 and good hands by Jones and Bayly gave Sam Goatcher a chance in the right hand corner which he duly seized (3-27). Sam is gradually returning to full fitness after his horrible accident last year so this will have given much pleasure all round.
This Saturday Heathfield entertain Pulborough (14 Nov 2.30).