Promotion candidates Dartfordians comfortable win
Much changed Heathfield again struggle away from home
Dartfordians 55 Heathfield 10
Dartfordians were the deserved and decisive winners by nine tries to two as they continued their campaign for promotion from London SE2. Given the relative league positions the outcome was not a surprise. Heathfield’s away form has been poor, yet again there were extensive changes to the team from the previous match and today’s performance contrasted sharply with that. Heathfield had yet another backs combination – eighteen matches, eighteen different selections – plus serious absences and changes in the pack.
In spite of heavy recent rain conditions were good and the slight breeze was across the pitch. Dartfordians were three tries up in ten minutes and the result was already obvious. The home side are expert scavengers with their back row being especially effective at producing quick ball and they have a creative back division that thrives on this. The first three tries were all in the bottom left hand corner as they played at a pace that had Heathfield struggling. The second was slightly fortuitous with a ricochet off a visiting back dropping nicely for the try scorer. The damage could have been worse if the home kicker had been on target (15-0).
Heathfield were trying the get into the game but an attack up their left flank was contained and the home full back was smart enough as tackler to recover the ball and then scamper away for a fine solo try, and their bonus point, with their kicker finally achieving (22-0). Another Heathfield attack actually reached the home 22 and a snipe by Lewis Headland almost produced a score but he could not find any support and threat was contained. The home full back then continued his fine game with another try from some good wide passes (29-0). On the half hour Dartfordians collected their sixth try although this may have been fortuitous as the scorer looked to have rolled the ball along the ground before picking it up to score (36-0).
Heathfield did collect some small compensation as Headland gave Toby Warren quick ball from a breakdown and he had the strength to break the initial tackle and then the pace and skill to make a classic touchline run, beating the last defender for a fine individual try (36-5). Warren made a number of other very positive contributions and emerged with credit on the day.
Generally Heathfield had enough possession to have made an impact but it was often back-foot ball and Headland was having to do too much on his own as a reflection of the lack of runners for him to link with.
Dartfordians started the second half in the same way as the first with a simple try from quick ball and direct running (43-5). Heathfield did manage an almost immediate response as they exploited a penalty to drive a lineout into the left hand corner and Oli Robertshaw worked his way over (43-10). All the visitors’ back row made some hard yards ball in hand with Robertshaw doing especially well in this respect collecting often difficult ball at the base of the scrum. However the home back row were distinctly more productive at the breakdown: their number eight is unusually small for that position but he is a notably effective performer.
At the end of the third quarter the home side collected their next try (50-10) and would have had another soon afterwards but the ref called play back for a potentially serious injury to Ollie Brown. Thankfully he was able to walk off the field but head injury protocols meant that his game was over – sadly as he had made a number of threatening runs.
One quirk of the game was the penalty count of 14 against the home side and just 2 against the visitors. Eventually this led to a home flanker being binned. Heathfield had a period of pressure on the home try line and there were brief but illusory hopes of a try bonus point for the visitors but the home defence was adequate.
Heathfield scrummage was not helped by injuries and resulting replacements that ended with hooker Ollie Stables playing in the centre for the last ten minutes. Stables had a generally decent game including one excellent tackle back in the closing stages.
The final home try came from a hack ahead and the final whistle blew shortly afterwards.
Results elsewhere mean that relegation is a definite possibility for Heathfield who will need to demonstrate their good home form in the next two weeks to retain their place at this level. Next up is Horsham this Saturday 11 March at 3.00 although this time may be adjusted in light of the Calcutta Cup later that afternoon.