Horsham just edge close contest
Both sides play open rugby in spite of bitter cold
Horsham 22 Heathfield 14
Horsham just defeated Heathfield in a game that in better conditions would have been very entertaining but the cold made it into a fight for survival, especially for the small band of supporters.
Heathfield had first use of a stiff easterly breeze on a firm but slightly greasy surface. With the temperature around zero, and the wind chill making it effectively much less, errors were inevitable and both sides take credit for playing so much open rugby on a day when stuffing it up the jumper would have the preferred option for many.
Early Heathfield pressure was generally contained, principally through some very effective mauling by the home side. Throughout the game Horsham often held up visiting ball carriers and thus gained possession at the following scrum. This could suggest poor technique by Heathfield players but also suggests good skill and strength by the home forwards.
Heathfield often used kicking out of hand to build pressure and secure position but chiefly they were using their powerful runners with good support with Fraser Goatcher
and Ed Koops
especially effective at this stage, along with Munch May
often in close attendance and making good yards. Harry Reilly
opened the scoring with a penalty after 15 minutes as a fair reflection of the game thus far.
showed excellent skill and pace when he broke tackles and chipped ahead into the right hand corner but the defence just denied him the touchdown. Reilly then doubled the score with a fine penalty from the ten metre line.
At this point the momentum of the game was with the visitors with all the play in the home half. Goatcher was making some especially effective runs and the home defence were starting to pay particular attention to him. However he was now brought down by a fine and completely fair tackle but suffered what sounded like a very painful leg injury. Initial reports suggest no broken bones but he will be out of action for a while. Ollie Smith
replaced him with Shrek Watkins moving to loose head.
In spite of this painful interlude Heathfield soon resumed playing some excellent 15 man rugby with Nick Cook
becoming increasingly effective along with Ross and skipper Haidar Maliki who was also putting in a big shift in defence. Soon another penalty extended the lead and then a penalty gave a good attacking position in the corner nearest the clubhouse. After a couple of phases, with Ollie Stables making some excellent hard yards, Oli Robertshaw was on hand to dive over. Remarkably, having nailed three less than straightforward penalties, Reilly now missed the simple conversion. It should also be noted that most supporters, of both teams, saw a knock on in the build up to this score.
had a couple of strong runs and made plenty of important tackles while Toby Warren
was also noted for some solid defensive work. One of his tackles put his opponent in the large and deep puddle near the top touchline – a dry replacement shirt had to be found to prevent hypothermia. The Heathfield scrum had a good day with a clear edge although without really exploiting this or gaining penalties in that phase. Ross and Cook also spoiled a good deal of the home lineout ball. However the home side were probably more effective at the breakdown and, as noted above, in holding up mauls.
The home support had been concerned that Heathfield were building too big a lead but their side now made what was probably the decisive score in the game as excellent hands and support down their right wing ended with a try under the posts, the only score in the game at that end against the wind, and this conversion was not missed.
With a half time score of 7-14, some thought that the wind was worth about ten points and thus the lead would not be enough.
Horsham soon suggested that this was correct as they set up camp in the visitors 22. An attempt to run out of defence was foiled by a possibly harsh call for a forward pass and Horsham thus had an attacking scrum in the visitors’ 22. In due course a strong run near a breakdown was initially held but the ball carrier span out of the tackle and dived over near the posts.
Horsham soon returned to this area and more pressure resulted in Reilly ‘taking one for the team’ and the resulting penalty gave Horsham the lead at 17-14.
While Horsham did not manage to add points while the visitors were a man short, soon afterwards some strong direct running and good support down their left wing resulted in a try in the corner, thus extending their lead to eight points and denying Heathfield even a losing bonus point.
Most of the last ten minutes was in the home half as Heathfield showed plenty of spirit but errors inevitably crept in as the cold took its toll and the home defence just held out.
Next week Heathfield visit Deal & Betteshanger with whom there is always a close contest and who are, as usual, very near neighbours in the league table (24 March 3.00).