Heathfield back to winning ways
Folkestone contribute fully in nine try entertaining match
Heathfield 39 Folkestone 19
In a generally entertaining game Heathfield secured a six tries to three bonus point win at home against a competitive Folkestone team. The home team came into this game on the back of two losses in important games so the result was important to put the team into a positive mood going into the crunch game at Aylesford next week.
In spite of earlier rain the pitch was in good condition and the wind was mostly across the pitch so conditions were neutral. After some early exchanges a penalty helped Heathfield establish a good position in the bottom right hand corner. A lineout catch and drive was just denied and a home score was looking likely with an attacking 5 metre scrummage. However the Folkestone scrum managed to secure the ball against the head and the line was cleared. Home supporters were left wondering if an important chance had been missed.
Indeed Folkestone now played some decent rugby and most of the next few minutes were spent in the home half. However the home defence was adequate and near the end of the first quarter a Folkestone offence at the breakdown gave Harry Reilly
the opportunity of a long range penalty (3-0).
Very soon afterwards Oli Robertshaw picked up at number 8 from a scrum just in the home half and after making a few yards he found Nick Cook
who gradually accelerated through some tackles and scored an impressive solo try, safely converted by Reilly (10-0).
The visitors were undaunted and again pressed into the home half. Folkestone were just shading the breakdown although Heathfield were edging the lineout with some useful disruption of the visitors’ throws by Henry Ross
. Ed Koops
had a good day securing his ball under some pressure and was also noted with at least one good steal at the breakdown.
However Folkestone had enough ball to work into the home 22 and as Heathfield tried to play their way to safety a Folkestone flanker was on hand to snatch a loose pass and dive over to open their account, although the conversion was missed (10-5).
now showed one of the strengths of his game as he charged down the slope making many yards and set up a good attacking position in the home 22. A set move from the consequent scrum saw Ethan Walker
on a lovely line and he had too much power to be contained (17-5). In keeping with the fluctuating nature of this game Folkestone almost immediately replied as a penalty put them into the left hand corner and from the resulting lineout they were able to work a man over under the posts (17-12) just before the half time whistle.
At the interval Munch May
was replaced by Lewis Headland
. Initially in the second half Folkestone had a period of possession but then a kick ahead was marked by Walker, under some pressure, and Folkestone may well look back at that moment as the pivot. Heathfield turned over the resulting lineout and good hands moved the ball to Ollie Brown on the right wing who made a fine run before unselfishly putting Sam Goatcher
in for an important score (22-12).
replaced F Goatcher and Cook gave way to Dylan Eames
. Cook had a fine all round game as well as his try, all the more notable for clearly suffering from a painful cough.
Heathfield were now in the ascendant with George Gomersall
having one tasty run that helped establish position in the visitors’ 22. Successive scrums showed that Heathfield now had a clear edge in that phase and a score looked imminent. A knock on at the base of a scrum suggested that the chance was gone but at the resulting scrum the Heathfield eight surged forward to reclaim the ball and were then awarded a penalty try (29-12).
Soon afterwards a lineout catch and drive was clinically exploited for Robertshaw to claim yet another try in that phase (34-12).
It would be wrong to suggest that it was all one way traffic and Folkestone were playing with ambition and no little skill. They collected one try with some good hands in the centre (34-19) and were just denied a try bonus point with a close call for a forward pass.
The last few minutes were forgettable with the referee needing to warn both captains as the game became scrappy and fractious. A player from each side was duly binned. At least the game ended on a positive note as Headland capped another effective performance off the bench by taking a quick tap and completing the scoring with a try, although Reilly contrived to miss the simple conversion thus slightly spoiling his otherwise good all round game.
On average this year Heathfield have conceded just 9 points per game so Folkestone, perhaps unlucky not to collect a bonus point, can also take much credit for scoring twice as much.
In spite of the result, there was a feeling that this was a patchy performance by Heathfield who will need to operate more accurately next week. The game was sadly notable for about 30 penalties in all, shared equally between the sides. The game next week will probably be very close and that level of error would be fatal.
Heathfield lead Aylesford by 3 league points so if they avoid defeat next week they will be promoted at Aylesford’s expense (Aylesford 23 April 3.00).