Heathfield overcome conditions and game Uckfield ...
... but are thwarted in the hunt for a bonus point
Uckfield 0 Heathfield 19
On a bitterly cold day with serious wind-chill Heathfield ended as clear winners but were frustrated in their hunt for a try bonus point by a determined home side.
In front of a decent crowd Heathfield had first use of the significant wind and the home side can be counted slightly unlucky as the wind strength did fade during the game. Heathfield soon had control of the ball in the home half and quick accurate ball in front of the posts gave Ethan Walker an opportunity and he duly muscled his way over for the opening try after just four minutes, converted by Lucas Cuming (0-7).
Sadly this was effectively the last of Walker’s contribution on the day as he soon left the field with a leg injury and this further disrupted a back division trying to come to terms with yet another different combination. Walker is having a very decent season and this game would have played to his strengths.
Most of the play was in the home half with the Heathfield scrummage becoming increasingly dominant. On a seriously cold day the inevitable number of handling errors meant that the scrum was a significant factor and Heathfield duly benefited. However another critical area of the game is the breakdown and here Uckfield had the better day. The visitors were lacking a specialist number 7 and the home team were often able to get mostly legal hands on the ball in the tackle area and achieve turnovers, thus disrupting plenty of promising Heathfield attacks.
Nonetheless Heathfield were at times playing some excellent rugby in attack and on the half hour they scored a quite precise try as Oli Robertshaw picked up a quick heel at number 8, found Bryn Jones on the short side and Ollie Brown finished clinically in the right hand corner (0-12).
At half time Uckfield may have felt that they were still in with a chance given the wind. That destructive wind also meant that the lineout was always difficult and neither side had control of that phase.
However in the second half Heathfield soon started making good ground through forward carries with skipper Ollie Smith and Gus Taylor catching the eye. This achieved good field position in the right hand corner and repeated attacks ended with Eric Tamsen adjudged to have been held up. However this was immediately corrected as another dominant Heathfield scrum resulted in a penalty try (0-19).
With more than half an hour to go and in an apparently strong position Heathfield will have been thinking about the bonus point try. However that was the final score in the match for a number of reasons. Part of Heathfield’s success this year is down to the very effective forward unit. However there were many times in the rest of the game when the attacks were on too narrow a basis when there was plentiful space available out wide and willing (albeit frozen) hands ready to utilise the majority possession secured by the pack.
Uckfield also take plenty of credit for resilient defence, along with their success at the breakdown and indeed on several occasions they mounted threatening counter attacks with the inside centre being particularly noted.
Following a scrummage incident which led to some handbags Fraser Goatcher and the home tight head were binned. From then on the Heathfield scrummage attracted repeated penalties which further obstructed the hunt for the bonus point try. The debate about the scrummaging technicalities is probably still continuing even now with no satisfaction for anyone but it was surprising that a dominant scrummage for most of the game suddenly attracted multiple penalties.
Robertshaw had an impressive game making lots of good ground ball in hand and Ed Koops had another big game with hard work in defence and attack. However Tamsen was made man of the Match by Head Coach Dave Cook for his hard graft off the ball mostly, some important tackles, and some good decision making..
The last quarter was increasingly scrappy with the penalty count against Heathfield building and the cold conditions making it a difficult day for good handling.
Heathfield are playing some good rugby at times but the decision making is still patchy as today showed. However players are generally enjoying their rugby in a very competitive league. The two teams above Heathfield in the league both lost away today so the top of the table is becoming congested and there are no easy games.
Heathfield are disappointed that Hackney have decided not to contest the scheduled match next Saturday in the RFU Senior Vase. Given Hackney’s current position in an equivalent league it would probably have been a competitive occasion. However a week off will not be wasted as Heathfield look forward to the three following weeks with interesting contests against Burgess Hill (good win today), Bromley (just above Heathfield in the league table) and then Folkestone who are always a good contest and good company in the last game before Christmas.
Heathfield are next at home to Burgess Hill on Saturday 5 December at 2.15.