Bromley edge past Heathfield
Heathfield finish strongly but too late
Bromley 17 Heathfield 13
As anticipated this critical SE3 league match between the top two teams was a close hard-fought affair with the home side eventually just holding on to secure the win in the face of a late Heathfield charge. Given the league situation this was more like a cup game with the result being more important than a hunt for bonus points.
Conditions were excellent with the surface in good shape and the wind generally across the pitch.
A large crowd of home supporters will have been pleased by the performance of their pack in particular who, especially in the first half, seemed to want it more than a slightly lack-lustre Heathfield eight. This may have been a reaction to the events the previous week in Devon.
Bromley had the better of possession in the first quarter and, apart from a couple of nice steps by their fly-half, they were generally contained by the visitors’ defence. While Heathfield had a slight edge in the scrummage and clearly came out best in the lineout contest, Bromley’s extra physicality was giving them some good ball at the breakdown.
Just into the second quarter Bromley scored the best try of the game as an effective forward drive took them into the visitors’ 22 and when the ball was moved wide their no 8 broke a couple of poor tackles before giving a scoring pass to a supporting runner who dotted down under the posts (7-0).
Perhaps this was the wakeup call that Heathfield needed as they now started to generate some go-forward resulting in two penalties from Harry Reilly
, albeit the first via the woodwork (7-6).
Just before half time Bromley stretched their lead with a penalty (10-6) but the game was clearly in the balance.
was having a good day at the front of the lineout and the scrummage was generally secure, collecting several balls against the head. Lewis Headland
and Nick Cook
replaced Munch May
and Haidar Maliki at half time.
While Heathfield started the half brightly, eventually Bromley were able to break out and kicked effectively down the slope to gain good field position. This lead to a period of Bromley pressure in the bottom corner and it took some brave defence to contain them with the ball being held up over the line on two occasions. However Fraser Goatcher
was damaged in this last ditch defence and was replaced by Richard Cooley
. Although probably several stones lighter than his younger tight head opponent, Cooley gradually wore him down through superior technique and was well in control by the end.
Nonetheless Bromley finally capitalised on their good position as they found a hole in the Heathfield centre and collected their second try under the posts (17-6).
Heathfield were a long way from beaten with plenty of time on the clock and most of the rest of the game was in the Bromley half. David Bayly had been having his normal but still outstanding game by seemingly always being near the ball but he now had to leave the field for injury following a post-whistle hit by a home second row. Unusually the referee, who was advised about the circumstances from many quarters, came over to apologise to Bayly for not having seen the incident.
Heathfield were now pressing forward into the home 22 and the home support was noticeably quieter. While penalties had been even in the first half, in the second the count was 7-1 against Bromley. Then not for the first time in the game a Bromley player overdid the physicality and a prop was rightly binned for a spear tackle on Cook. There was subsequent confusion following this as scrums became uncontested while he was in the bin.
Bromley will take pleasure in the way their defence coped in this period as Heathfield repeatedly attacked their line. A try finally came just after Bromley had been restored to full strength as successive phases took their toll and Ben Boorman
was the eventual beneficiary on the right wing, Reilly converting impressively (17-13).
With just two minutes remaining Bromley sensibly booted the ball down the slope and forced Heathfield to play from deep if they wished to snatch a result. In spite of another ball against the head at a scrum, Heathfield were unable to break out and the game was over.
Bromley are now strong favourites for the title and promotion with Heathfield having to win both their remaining games to secure promotion – but Folkestone and especially Aylesford will have a considerable say in that.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit Crowborough in a quarter final of the Sussex Bob Rogers Cup (9 April 2.30).