Hove just overtake Heathfield in entertaining match
Visiting backs finally have edge over the home pack
Heathfield 27 Hove 28
Hove eventually secured a one point victory in an entertaining contest as they took their chances better than the home team who will regard this as a game that they could, and indeed should, have won.
Hove opened the scoring after a couple of minutes with a puzzling penalty at a tackle (0-3). Heathfield surged back with their scrum making an immediate impact and then pressure into the visitors’ 22 resulted in the referee indicating penalty advantage whereupon Harry Reilly dropped a goal, the first by Heathfield this year(3-3). More home pressure into the top corner resulted in another Reilly penalty (6-3). Heathfield were starting to build some decent pressure through their forwards and the penalty count against the visitors was mounting with the referee warning their captain about the likely consequences.
However Hove always looked dangerous in counterattack and it took a brave interception by Toby Wallace to end one very threatening attack. Wallace’s run back looked to be destined for a great try but a quite remarkable tap tackle back by a Hove defender just denied him.
Another Hove attack was only just contained by a fine cover tackle in the corner by Sam Goatcher. The Hove backs are a dangerous unit with both centres always looking likely to cause problems. Heathfield were well aware of this threat and in spite of the final result they can take considerable credit from how their defence generally nullified this danger.
In turn Hove had a period of pressure with Heathfield now being warned against further infractions so it was not surprising when Ollie Smith was binned for malpractice at the breakdown. The resulting penalty levelled the score (6-6).
In spite of the man short Heathfield managed to create some attacking opportunities with Ollie Brown making a couple of significant runs. Nonetheless Hove regained the lead as good hands gave them a well-constructed try in the left hand corner (6-13). In the last play of the half a promising Heathfield attack broke down in the visitors’ 22 and the Hove outside centre was able to kick a loose ball ahead and then have the pace to touch down at the other end (6-20).
Sadly Wallace had to retire at half time after making some very significant contributions and Heathfield will take much pleasure in seeing yet another home-grown Colt showing that he is comfortable and indeed effective at this senior level.
The Hove lineout looked an efficient unit but their scrummage was always under pressure from the home eight. However one penalty against the home hooker probably arose from referees being unused to seeing a hooker actually hooking, while the visitors’ put in usually disappeared straight into the second row. (Old prop’s whinge maybe but eliminating the hooker’s specific skills reduces the games' appeal for some, admittedly odd-shaped and often oddly-behaved, individuals).
With the slight slope advantage in the second half Heathfield soon came right back into the game with a clinical lineout catch and drive with David Bayly claiming the touch down. At this stage the home side had some momentum and a few minutes later from a similar situation in the left hand corner Bayly was again on hand to work his way over from short range (20—20).
This was now a cracking game as Hove responded with some positive play, tapping a couple of penalties when points were on offer but eventually they did regain the lead with a penalty (20-23). Hove will probably feel unlucky that their left winger was now binned for use of the elbow when fending off a tackle but referees have this week been given very specific guidance about anything involving blows to the head so this decision was not surprising.
The other Toby W in the home team, Toby Warren, was just denied in the left hand corner by some determined cover. But Heathfield were not to be denied and Heathfield No 8 Oli Robertshaw duly touched down as the home scrummage drove the visiting pack back (27-23).
With about fifteen minutes remaining any result was possible with play surging all over the pitch as the light faded. In the event the impressive visiting backs were the decisive factor as a good attack into the left hand corner was only just denied but a turned over lineout was then moved wide to the other corner for the decisive score (27-28). The conversion drifted wide for the only missed kick by either kicker on the day.
Heathfield at least collected a losing bonus point but will be disappointed not to have more from this game. Hove played to their strengths and Heathfield may well feel that they failed to exploit their dominance up front.
At the half way point in the league programme Heathfield’s home record does not look too shabby (won 3, lost 2 by 4 and 1 point respectively against higher ranked sides). Their away record is poor with just one away losing bonus point. The second half of the season starts away next week with the long arduous challenging journey to Crowborough for a game in which relative league positions are always irrelevant (17 Dec 2.00).