Home team performance wins battle of the Heaths
By Philip Bell
Heathfield more efficient than off-colour visitors
Heathfield 20 Haywards Heath 15
Well, not many saw that coming! After the first week’s results this fixture looked like a game between potential promotion candidates and a team destined for yet another relegation struggle. In the event the home side collected a deserved win for a team performance while the visitors were left to rue their missed opportunities and what was probably a below par performance.
On a beautiful day more suited to cricket than rugby, Haywards Heath had first use of the slight slope and very mild breeze. A couple of early scrums suggested that the home side were going to have a difficult day in that phase as the visitors made a mess of a couple of home scrums. Indeed initially the visitors looked impressive trying to move the ball wide. However the home defence had good line speed all day and the first try came from a mistake in the visitors’ midfield. The ball was gathered and soon Tom Glenn
made the first of his many contributions on the day with a lovely pass to Lucas Cuming
who touched down near the home balcony. Sam Goatcher
converted impressively (7-0).
Haywards Heath soon replied as they ran back a kick out of defence and worked their way over in the left hand corner (7-5). There was an ominous feeling that the visitors were starting to get into their stride and the home defence was being tested, with full back Cuming making several important tackles.Felix Godwin
now replaced Reece Webb
at tight head and thereafter scrums were much steadier and, if anything, Heathfield had a slight edge. Webb returned later in the game on his preferred loose head side and did well.
A key moment in the game now arrived as the visitors worked their way into the bottom right hand corner and from a scrum had a clear scoring chance but the final pass was botched. Heathfield had two longish penalty chances drift wide but they were also showing plenty of intent, running a tap penalty from deep which gave Ben Boorman
a chance on the right wing but the cover just got to him. Sadly Boorman then had to retire with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Harry Reilly
One area in which Heathfield had an unusually good day was the lineout where Ollie Stables throwing was generally accurate with Tom Tingley
being especially productive and also stealing some opposition ball.
Tom Cornwell replaced Ethan Walker
in the back row but Walker returned in due course and demonstrated his versatility by some useful work in the centre.
With five minutes left in the half the visitors took the lead with a penalty but this was overtaken in the last moments of the half by a well-judged drop goal by Glenn (10-8).
At half time any result was possible but there was an increasing sense of belief in the Heathfield camp and some frustration in the visitors’.
The decisive score came early in the second half as a fumble in the visitors 22 was snatched up by Glenn who then worked his way under the posts, converted by Reilly (17-8). Glenn was winded in the process and took a breather for a few minutes, with Walker back on.
Heathfield generally had the best of the next period with most of the play in the visitors half with the home pack edging the breakdown and carrying effectively. Skipper Gus Taylor and Godwin were both noted with some useful carries while Henry Armstrong
had a couple of good runs. Veteran Kobe Tonkin
put in another strong shift while Rob Nitman
was also noted with some destructive tackling. When Haywards Heath did have the ball the home defence, especially near the breakdown, was decisively effective.
In this period Reilly, and Glenn when he returned to the fray, were kicking well out of hand, keeping the visitors tied into their half. In due course a penalty chance arose and Reilly stretched the lead (20-8), meaning that Haywards Heath now needed two scores.
Another home penalty chance drifted wide and as the minutes ticked down the visitors started to come back into the game and the home side were hanging on for the whistle. Haywards Heath hammered away in the home 22 (with one individual having a moment to forget in triumphantly planting the ball over a line only to find it was the 5 metre line and not the try line) – and eventually after multiple phases they scored in the left hand corner to secure a losing bonus point (20-15).
With just one minute left on the clock Heathfield were delighted to recover the ball from the restart and soon afterwards put the ball out to secure the victory.
Haywards Heath will probably be disappointed with their performance on the day but credit must go to the home side for a genuine team performance, showing the benefit of recent targeted squad training.
Other results in this league suggest that it is going to be a well-contested competition- and that Heathfield will be a big part of the conversation.
Next week Heathfield visit Old Colfeians (22 Sep 15.00) and will be looking to improve on their poor away record in recent years.