Haywards Heath gain revenge in battle of the Heaths
By Philip Bell
Encouraging forward effort in second half by Heathfield
Haywards Heath 31 Heathfield 5
Haywards Heath (HH) duly gained revenge for their earlier defeat by Heathfield with a five tries to one win in miserable conditions. All players and the referee deserve great credit for managing to complete this game with almost continuous rain and wind in temperatures just above freezing. Some were near hypothermia and will have much appreciated the warmth of the clubhouse afterwards with, for a change, a mug of tea being even more welcome, at least at first, than a pint of cooler liquid - although a few of those probably followed.
HH effectively won the game in the first half and thereafter just had to contain the visitors’ fightback. HH opened the scoring in the opening minute as they recovered the kick off and after a couple of phases a home centre took advantage of some weak tackling to charge over near the posts.
Naturally Heathfield charged back and looked to be competitive in most areas apart from the scrummage where the home side had a clear early edge. Indeed Heathfield were pressing into the home half with Oli Robertshaw making useful ground off a scrum and after a couple of phases they had a promising position near the home 22. However the ball came loose in the tackle and a home centre was quick to snatch the ball and outrun the cover to the other end (14-0). Henry Ross was already making a good impact in the loose and he now started to cause serious problems for the home lineout as he repeatedly ruined their front ball. While it was a difficult day for those throwing in, Heathfield had a clear advantage in that phase and especially in the first half HH looked very unsettled.
However HH achieved good field position and then won a penalty from the scrummage which they exploited effectively for a try from close range (21-0).
Heathfield had one promising moment as another lineout was turned over and Robertshaw made good ground but the potentially scoring pass to Ross just went astray. HH finished the half with their bonus point try as their hooker was first to react when the ball came loose in the tackle in another Heathfield attack and he showed good speed for a front row forward to scamper half the pitch for a fine solo try. Thus two of the home tries came from HH players responding more quickly to opportunities from a tackle.
Heathfield head Coach Dave Cook made some changes at half time with Reece Webb replacing Shrek Watkins and Toby Harrison moving to fly half with the other backs moving out one position.
HH had the benefit of the slight slope in the first half while the wind was initially mainly across the pitch. However as the game progressed the wind seemed more up the pitch and thus in favour of HH.
The home team collected their fifth and final try from a scrummage as their fly half rose above the muddy conditions to step his way over for a fine individual try(31-0).
However Heathfield were not behaving like a beaten side and their pack in particular took the game to their opponents with increasingly effective driving and pick and go with captain Gus Taylor as usual leading by example. This was a heartening performance by a team which is having a difficult season.
Heathfield duly scored a deserved try from this style of play with Robertshaw on the end of an extended drive. At this point the game was fluctuating all over the pitch and other scores looked likely in spite of the conditions. The home side were now handicapped by a yellow card for a high tackle although Heathfield were unable to take advantage. The Heathfield scrummage was starting to gain a slight edge and the home coach was concerned enough to bring back on a starting prop who had been rested.
In the event the worsening conditions prevented any further score and the game petered out in the deepening gloom as handling errors foiled any last heroics.
After the seasonal break Heathfield will restart their league campaign when they entertain Old Colfeians on 9th January 2019 at 2pm.
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