Good second half cannot overturn first half blitz
Heathfield show resilience against impressive home side
Charlton Park 34 Heathfield 10
Charlton Park collected a home five try win over Heathfield but after a blistering half hour the home side were made to fight for their points and Heathfield will have taken a number of positives from the day.
The pitch was one of the best experienced by Heathfield this year and with negligible wind conditions were excellent. The home side kicked off down the slight slope but after the initial exchanges Heathfield began to secure some possession and worked their way upfield. This resulted in an early penalty chance for Sam Goatcher but the ball slid wide. Then with fifteen on the clock the home kicker made no mistake with his first opportunity (3-0).
This was soon followed by a three try burst as the Park backs had a golden period in which their pace and strength exposed the visitors’ defence. In particular the home full back, Reion Raybe, has speed, skill and strength which enables him to break tackles and outpace many defences. Pacy running combined with excellent support play left Heathfield looking at a loss for a way to contain the home attacks (24-0). The visitors also did not help themselves with some poor kicking out of defence, often going straight to the danger men.
The situation appeared to be worsening as Ollie Brown was rightly binned for a trip and Ethan Walker and then Oliver Osler-Holt had to be replaced for injury. However there was no further scoring while Brown was having a rest as the Heathfield pack were managing to secure increasing possession mainly thanks to the back row. David Bayly had moved to the centre because of the injuries and he made his customary impact there while Oli Robertshaw, Haidar Maliki and Gus Taylor were doing the hard work in the rucks and mauls from which they emerged with great credit.
Nonetheless just after Brown rejoined the fray the home side finally exploited a good position on the visitors’ line and a centre crashed over from short range (29-0).
Heathfield surged back and good play took them up to the home top corner where an attacking lineout looked promising. It did work out but not as expected. Park stole the lineout but failed to control the ball and Henry Ross dived in to claim the score (29-5).
The Heathfield lineout had a generally decent day based on accurate throws from Ollie Stables but the scrummage was under pressure although Robertshaw did well to secure much difficult ball at the base. The scrummage phase was unsatisfactory for both teams as there seemed to be an extraordinary delay before the scrum half was told to put the ball in even though the scrum was generally steady. As the scrummage under pressure this had a negative impact on Heathfield and was the subject of some discussion in the clubhouse afterwards.
It can be argued that with the result effectively decided, Park relaxed and let Heathfield get back in the game. While that has some validity, it would not do justice to a wholehearted team effort by Heathfield, and by the pack in particular. Stables epitomised this attitude as he made a number of effective runs gaining plenty of yards and providing a target for the supporting players.
Now playing down the slope Heathfield started the second half well and it was no surprise when Munch May worked his way over from close range (29-10).
The only other score in the game came a few minutes later when a superb long pass gave Park’s Raybe the space and opportunity on which he thrives and he duly collected in the top corner (34-10).
In spite of disruption through injuries, Heathfield remained competitive throughout the rest of the game with the penalty count going strongly against the home side in the half (7-2). Lucas Cuming had some useful runs in this period but the final pass never came.
Park looked to have collected a final try late on but the ‘scorer’ was adjudged to have made a second movement.
After the damaging period in the first half, Heathfield can take considerable credit for restricting the opportunities for the dangerous home backs. Nonetheless Heathfield will need to collect more than moral victories in the weeks ahead.
Next Saturday Heathfield entertain second –placed Dartfordians in another tough fixture (5 Nov 2.30).