Home bonus point win for Heathfield
Strong second half performance by the pack
Heathfield 39 Horsham 21
Heathfield extended their excellent home record with an important five tries to three win over Horsham in remarkably benign conditions for mid-March. After a moderate first half the home pack became increasingly authoritative in the second period and effectively decided an entertaining contest.
Heathfield had first use of the slight slope but Horsham almost immediately secured possession and a penalty gave them an attacking lineout in the home corner by the clubhouse. Horsham are noted for their set piece accuracy so it was no surprise when they efficiently executed a catch and drive for the opening try, impressively converted (0-7).
Soon afterwards a long-range Heathfield penalty was just wide but there were increasing signs that this was going to be a good contest as the home scrummage looked to be well in control with one extensive well-controlled drive. Most of the play was in the middle half of the pitch as the game fluctuated either way. However Ollie Stables now made a dynamic run and then conjured a remarkable offload that Sean Crozier somehow plucked off his shoelaces for a fine try, converted by Harry Reilly (7-7). This was Crozier’s first try at this level – it won’t be the last.
Horsham now demonstrated their positive approach to this game as they spurned an easy kick at goal and went for the corner. However their normally reliable lineout failed and Heathfield were able to scramble clear. Another long Heathfield penalty attempt just failed. Generally there was some irritation in the home team and management that the execution was not accurate enough. David Bayly had yet another hugely influential game in defence and noticeably with ball in hand. Crozier did give Heathfield the lead with a penalty but Horsham continued to threaten through good support play and a penalty to the left hand corner was efficiently exploited by another catch and drive for a simple try, again well converted (10-14).
Horsham will have fancied their chances at half time with the slope now in their favour. However some stern words in the Heathfield half-time huddle had their desired effect and soon the home pack started to impose themselves on the game with strong running and good support. An early Crozier penalty reduced the gap as a valid reflection of the run of play (13-14). However the referee did find it necessary to have words with the home side skipper about some of the unnecessary advice he was receiving from some green players.
Nonetheless some good all-team play eventually led to a try for Henry Ross as a worthy reward for his efforts in the lineout and for some important tackles (20-14). A defensive scrum in the home 22 was turned into a scoring opportunity as Oli Robertshaw made good yards from number 8 to put Toby Warren away on a fine run that was just denied in the left hand corner. However the resulting lineout was efficiently driven over for Stables to claim a deserved try (25-14).
This was the period when the Heathfield pack dominated the game with good running and offloads to supporting players that stretched the visitors’ defence. Heathfield need to produce this quality of play more consistently if they are to remain at this level.
Horsham can probably consider themselves unlucky to concede the next score. Ethan Walker, returning from injury, had been making a positive impression with some characteristic strong runs and now hacked ahead but was adjudged to have been impeded a few yards out from the visitors’ try line. Heathfield were therefore awarded a penalty try which thus secured the try bonus point although many observers thought it a harsh decision (32-14).
Some spectators also claimed that tight head Ollie Smith had dummied an opponent in a handy run but the front row committee later decided that this was uncharacteristic behaviour and he was therefore cleared of the offence.
With five minutes remaining Heathfield collected their fifth try as good lineout ball was driven on through several phases and Dylan Eames, on as a replacement, was able to claim the try (39-14).
Various injuries meant that Tom Watkins and Lucas Cuming also made useful contributions from the bench.
Horsham continued to play positively and were rewarded as pressure into the bottom corner and good hands gave them a straightforward and deserved try although the result was by now clear.
More Horsham pressure was unrewarded although there was just time for Ollie Stables to blemish his otherwise excellent performance with a yellow card for unnecessary retaliation.
A neutral observer afterwards produced the remarkable statistic that Horsham did not win a lineout in the last thirty minutes and this lack of first phase possession will have been a serious handicap for them and a compliment to the home pack.
Horsham are a team very similar to Heathfield with plenty of young promising players and who play an attractive open game. Heathfield look forward to renewing their acquaintance next year although Heathfield still need a few more league points to be completely sure of avoiding relegation.
This was a good weekend for Heathfield generally with today’s win coming just before local boy Joe Marler celebrated his 50th England cap as part of a dominant Calcutta Cup performance by England. Joe is a much-appreciated supporter of Heathfield in a number of ways without seeking any publicity.
A perfect weekend will be achieved if the home ladies team, Heathfield Ball Grabbers, can collect a result in their first home game – Sunday 12 March 2.00.
Heathfield now have two weeks to prepare for what promises to be a great contest on 25 March when Deal & Betteshanger are the visitors with both teams still being in relegation danger.