Heathfield bonus point win over local rivals
Scrummaging the critical factor in fluctuating contest
Heathfield 33 Crowborough 25
Heathfield, much-changed from last week, eventually secured local bragging rights, at least until Christmas, with a five try win over Crowborough. The lead changed hands five times and there were multiple errors by both sides so the coaches will have plenty to work on. The critical factor was probably the home scrummage which dominated their opponents, often driving them off their own ball.
After the difficult experience in North Kent last week the result will build some confidence in the squad that they can be competitive in this league. However, particularly in the first half, Crowborough showed their experience at this level as they looked to play a faster game and Heathfield will have to step up to this pace.
A couple of Heathfield mistakes from the kick-off gave Crowborough an early penalty (0-3). However a sound home scrum was then well exploited and the ball moved to the left wing, including a miss-move in the centre, and George Gomersall
opened his and Heathfield’s account for the season with a fine piece of finishing, stepping round one man and then handing off the full back (5-3). Although Harry Reilly
missed the conversion, he was soon on target with a penalty (8-3) almost immediately matched by a similar score at the other end (8-6).
At this stage Crowborough were having a sequence of successes at the breakdown as the home ball carriers failed to protect the ball. Heathfield Head Coach Dave Cook specifically addressed this at half time but by then Crowborough had taken their chances well to collect two tries. They achieved this in spite of successive yellow cards arising from Heathfield pressure especially into the bottom right hand corner. However a nice break in midfield and a well-timed pass put their left winger away (8-13). Then a chip ahead into the home 22 bounced away from the cover and the follow up gratefully claimed the try (8-18).
By now the home scrummage was well in control so it was no surprise when more pressure into the right hand corner gave Oli Robertshaw a routine pushover try (13-18).
While Heathfield had dominance at the scrummage, the lineout was a mess. The stiff but variable breeze was across the pitch and the ball was frequently overthrown so there was little clean ball from that phase for either side. The Crowborough 8 was doing a fine job in securing what little scrum ball they did win and he often then made good ground.
Early second half pressure gave Robertshaw a second push over try with Reilly’s conversion retaking the lead (20-18). The home supporters’ relief was almost immediately squashed as the Crowborough 5 did well to collect a ball bouncing out of the back of a maul near the home 10 metre line and then had the pace to claim a fine individual score (20-25).
That was the end of the good news for Crowborough. Reilly soon reduced the deficit with another penalty (23-25). Continued Heathfield pressure resulted in another yellow card for the visitors and with fifteen minutes remaining Heathfield retook the lead for the final time as good scrum ball was moved wide right for Oli Brown to finish well under the boisterous clubhouse balcony for the bonus point (28-25).
Most of the game was now in the visitors’ half and eventually the pressure told as the ball went loose when they tried to run out of defence and Ethan Walker
was on hand to claim the final score (33-25).
Crowborough were having to play catch-up but the home defence was looking increasingly solid. Sam Goatcher
had one nice run from his own 22 but his chip ahead was well secured by the visiting full back. Heathfield finished strongly as the scrummage pressure probably took its toll on tiring Crowborough legs.
Gus Taylor and Haidar Maliki both did much fine defensive work and Maliki and Fraser Goatcher
gained some hard yards ball-in-hand.
The general feeling in the clubhouse afterwards was one of relief after the unhappy result at Medway last week. There will be plenty of hard games to come but this young side is certainly capable of playing better than it showed today and the season looks challenging yet promising.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit Old Alleynians for the first senior encounter between the clubs (24 Sept 3.00).