Medway home advantage decisive
Heathfield had a disappointing start to their league campaign against a determined home team as they failed to capitalise on conditions in the first half.
Medway 21 Heathfield 13
Heathfield had a disappointing start to their league campaign against a determined home team as they failed to capitalise on conditions in the first half. These two teams next meet in the final game of the league in mid-April and it is quite possible that the result of that final match could resolve some promotion and relegation issues in what even now looks to be a highly competitive league.
Medway have always been a difficult team to beat at home and home advantage may well have tipped the balance today. They won the toss and chose to play into the steady breeze and up the slight slope. Heathfield are incorporating some new faces and in spite of useful practise games they looked like a team that is not used to playing together. For most of the first half they dominated possession and territory but failed to finish a number of promising situations. After a scare on the home try line in the opening moments some frantic play by both sides eventually saw Medway break out and collect a penalty for offside (3-0).
The small band of visiting supporters now had their hopes raised as a penalty kick to the corner led to a lineout from which Richard Cooley was driven over for a rare but richly deserved try. His standard of fitness and all-round play is an example to all. (3-5). David Yates was dominating the lineout and as more variations are utilised that phase looks in good shape.
Most of the play was in the home half as the visiting lineout and scrummage were working well. Callum (Munch) May was receiving some heavyweight attention from the home loose-head in particular but still showed some creative quick–thinking in tight situations. Ollie Robertshaw achieved one fine rip for a turnover followed by a decent run but generally the Heathfield backrow had a disappointingly quiet day.
Although under pressure Medway were looking dangerous in counterattack and their left wing had one eye-catching run which the visiting defence struggled to contain.
With five minutes remaining James Walsh collected his first points for Heathfield from a penalty (3-8) but the last few moments saw chances at both ends without completion.
In the second half early home pressure resulted in a penalty five metres out from the Heathfield try line and a simple tap penalty move gave the home number six a try from a good line of running. The conversion put them ahead (10-8). This lead was extended when some incautious chat moved a penalty ten metres nearer the posts, not the only time this happened, and the home kicker duly took advantage (13-8). Both teams made substitutions at this point with David Bayly making a deserved first appearance at this level.
However almost all of the play was in the Heathfield half and it was no surprise when a well-struck drop goal from thirty five metres extended the home lead (16-8).
With about eight minutes left Medway sealed their result with a well-taken try on their left flank from broken play (21-8). The final pass was at least three metres forward although they had been denied a try a few minutes earlier for an alleged forward pass that many thought lateral at worst.
As the minutes ticked down Heathfield at least finished the stronger with Tom Sheffield finishing well at the end of a series of attacks (21-13) although the losing bonus point proved elusive.
The Heathfield players were afterwards detained on the pitch by Coach Dave Jones for an extensive review.
This Saturday (3.00pm 22nd Sep) Heathfield entertain Thanet Wanderers for the first fixture between the two clubs at senior level.