Forward power overcomes resilient Pulborough
Poor conditions don't stop efficient Heathfield
Heathfield 22 Pulborough 3
Heathfield eventually emerged winners from a hard-fought match in which both sides tried to rise above challenging conditions. The home side had too much power upfront for a well-organised Pulborough side who took much credit from a full eighty minute performance.
Heathfield’s pitch outside the clubhouse has had the benefit of many thousands of pounds of technical work during the summer including rejuvenating the sandslits and generally it provided a firm surface albeit with some inevitable slipperiness in the conditions. A stiff variable breeze combined with consistent rain made for difficult handling conditions. It also complicated making notes for this report so there may be some recovered memory and creative writing involved in what follows.
Pulborough had the best of the early exchanges and had a period of pressure on the home bottom corner. There were some nervous moments at this stage on the home try line and a different bounce of the ball or seemingly minor decision could have had a major impact. However all the visitors had to show for their efforts was a penalty after about ten minutes (0-3).
Thereafter the home pack began to get to grips with the game and achieve a control of possession that they never thereafter relinquished. The home front row of Fraser Goatcher
, Eric Tamsen and skipper Ollie Smith was always comfortable and became increasingly dominant over the game.
An early Heathfield attack was just denied in the left hand corner when David Bayly was knocked into touch following up a precise kick by Bryn Jones
. Bayly had to be replaced temporarily by Kobe Tonkin but thankfully returned in due course to play a full part.
With conditions in their favour Pulborough had some other chances in this period but after twenty five minutes a penalty slipped wide. This may have been the tipping point in the game as soon afterwards Heathfield surged over a visitors’ scrum and No 8 Oli Robertshaw initiated an efficient attack through a couple of phases which allowed Munch May
to collect an important try, duly converted by Chester Duff
(7-3). At this stage the game was following exactly the same pattern as Heathfield’s previous game against Eastbourne in which stout defence against the elements were finally rewarded in the second half. This parallel in scoring was however now broken as Duff extended Heathfield’s lead with a penalty near the end of the half (10-3).
Especially in the first half Jones’ kicking out of hand was of high quality as he worked his team up the field. Henry Armstrong
had another generally strong showing with some handy runs. But in the conditions the game was decided up front and there Heathfield were in control. Nonetheless while the home scrummage was having a happy day, the visitors had the better of the lineout. On an admittedly difficult day for throwing in, Heathfield clearly missed Henry Ross
’s fine contribution in the previous game at the front of the line.
Ollie Stables replaced Eric Tamsen at half time. Tamsen returned later showing his versatility at prop while Stables caught the eye with a couple of effective runs ball in hand and being part of the still-dominant scrummage.
With the elements in their favour Heathfield had much the better of the rest of the game although the Pulborough defensive organisation and effort emerged with much credit from this period. Heathfield’s close driving with off-loading on either side is increasingly impressive and this was duly rewarded when Gus Taylor finally worked his way over during a try line tussle (15-3).
The final score in the game came with twenty minutes remaining as Robertshaw deservedly worked his way over after a period of repeated pressure (22-3).
The final quarter illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. Pulborough stoutly contained the home attacks and managed the occasional visit to the home half. They are a well-organised side who play to their strengths. In this last period Heathfield probably tried too hard with people trying for the magic pass rather than sticking to the less flashy but very effective close driving.
The final score was a fair reflection on the day. Heathfield has a team that is well-suited to the fast surface they normally enjoy on the excellent home pitches but they need to learn to be smarter and more patient when conditions are not perfect.
Next week (14 Nov 2.30) Heathfield renew one of their longest standing and always competitive fixtures at Uckfield. All three Heathfield teams won this week so the only unhappy person is the Club Treasurer (internal Club joke), with particular credit going to the 3rd team for their first win of the season after various tribulations.