Heathfield start well but Aylesford finish better
Aylesford eventually won an excellent and fluctuating game of rugby in which Heathfield led at half time but the home side produced a stronger second half and ended deserved winners.
Aylesford 25 Heathfield 10
Aylesford eventually won an excellent and fluctuating game of rugby in which Heathfield led at half time but the home side produced a stronger second half and ended deserved winners. Both sides had a number of young players with late changes making life difficult for the coaches.
Heathfield continue to look like a team in development. One senior player enjoying his deserved post-match refreshment commented that all the individual units are there – they just need to develop confidence and results will come.
Soon after the start, possession from a scrum and good hands involving Chris Elliott and Ollie Brown gave Tom Sheffield a chance from some way out and he duly finished well (0-5). The visitors were playing with pace and looking distinctly threatening. The conditions were slightly in their favour and thus James Walsh frequently kicked for the right hand corner, gaining useful position. David Bayly, in his first start at this level was catching the eye with a number of useful carries.
The game was fluctuating all over the pitch. Heathfield pressure resulted in a penalty chance but the kick went wide and then Aylesford surged back with some good lineout and forward driving.
From set-piece Brown made another entrance in the centre and a try looked likely but a fine tackle by the home fullback saved the day – for the moment. The end of the first quarter saw Brown complete some good handling for a try in the right hand corner (0-10).
Aylesford now had a period of pressure and worked their way back into the visitors’ half and a penalty opened their account (3-10). The game was moving all over the pitch and Heathfield also had a penalty chance but it drifted wide. The half ended on an entertaining note as an Aylesford attack ended with a home player diving on the ball just over a line and the ref awarding a try – only to find that it was the five metre line. The ref, who otherwise had a decent day, sensibly blew for half time and probably hoped (unsuccessfully) that not too many people had noticed.
Heathfield had an edge in the scrummage, claiming at least two balls against the head and the Cougar (Richard Cooley) generally enjoyed his afternoon against the Hippo (reportedly the nickname of the home tight head).
The Heathfield lineout is also looking in good order with David Yates running the show and he and Bruce Pestell generally securing their own ball. Pestell had an excellent all-round game in attack and defence, competing for the ball and carrying powerfully. Levi Willis made a number of effective contributions and Joe Wood was later picked out by the home team for his performance.
Aylesford retired to their changing room at half time and one senior home blazer thought that was so that their coach could give them a rollicking in private. If so it certainly worked as the home team had a much better second half. While they did have the slight wind advantage they also played with far more purpose and direction. An early breakout by their speedy young left wing was only just contained by a fine tackle by Elliott in the corner. Continued home pressure led to a series of scrums near the Heathfield line and eventually Aylesford claimed a try in the right hand corner (8-10).
At the end of the third quarter the home kicker put them in the lead with another penalty (11-10). Their scrum half was controlling the game and their fly half was using the wind effectively with his big boot.
Heathfield were generally under pressure and having to play from deep. Eventually Kobe Tonkin was sin-binned for an offence at the breakdown. Heathfield almost coped in his absence with the scrummage in particular doing well but Aylesford increasingly went for forward drives and eventually the extra man told in the last play before Tonkin returned to the action (18-10).
At various times Paul Keen, Ethan Walker and Chris Ambrosino made effective replacement contributions. Ambo is a long-standing and loyal club member who will have enjoyed his well-deserved visit to higher things.
Overall Heathfield had enough possession to secure the game, however especially in the second half they tried to play too expansive a game and any number of passes just went down. A bonus point would not have been an unjust reward but the rugby gods can be cruel and finally yet another attacking green move broke down so the alert home backs duly pounced to complete the scoring.
This Saturday (6 October 3pm) Heathfield visit Deal and Betteshanger in what looks likely to be a close encounter.