Heathfield secure away win
Heathfield eventually claimed an important away win in a closely contested match in which the result was in doubt to the end.
Sevenoaks 12 Heathfield 18
Heathfield eventually claimed an important away win in a closely contested match in which the result was in doubt to the end. The visitors initially faced a slanting and variable breeze with rainy squalls which made conditions increasingly difficult.
Although Sevenoaks managed to retrieve a Heathfield ball in the first scrummage, thereafter the visiting pack had a clear advantage in the tight, putting their opponents under pressure and providing secure ball on their own put-in. Chris Elliott, deputising effectively at scrum-half on the day, was perhaps unfortunate to be penalised for two crooked feeds although in a broader context it is good to see this law being applied, as long as there is consistency.
Sevenoaks opened the scoring with a well-taken try by their fly-half who ran behind a screen of his own players into the right hand corner. The home kicker then converted impressively with the best place kick of the day (7-0)
However Heathfield immediately replied and executed efficiently with a penalty kick to the corner followed by a catch and drive from which David Bayly benefitted with his first try for the club at this level (7-5).
After twenty minutes the home team had another unsuccessful penalty attempt but the visiting pack was having an increasing influence on the game. The Heathfield scrummage and lineout were both working well while Bayly and Tom Pritchard were catching the eye competing for every ball in the loose.
Sevenoaks had a penalty attempt go wide but it was no surprise when another catch and drive from a lineout ended with Kobe Tonkin claiming a well-deserved try (7-10).
With just over ten minutes remaining in the half Jo Woods edged Heathfield further ahead with an important penalty which was the last successful place kick by either side in the match (7-13). This illustrates the way in which the muddy conditions made kicking increasingly difficult.
The half ended with another Heathfield breakout from deep but yet another last pass went astray.
Given Heathfield’s recent poor second half performances, six points did not look a big cushion although they did now have the benefit of the breeze. Thankfully the rain had generally stopped but the playing surface had deteriorated and handling conditions were difficult. A muddy covering made it steadily more difficult for everyone, especially the referee, to distinguish between the forwards of both teams.
The decisive moment in the game came just ten minutes into the second half as Bayly fly-hacked a loose ball from a lineout and followed up in the left hand corner with determination to claim his second try on the day in spite of attention from several defenders (7-18).
Soon afterwards Dave Yates, who had secured his lineout with his usual precision, gave up his unequal struggle against the bug that he had been fighting this week and was replaced by Chris Brady who again made a strong impression
The rest of the game saw the home team apply increasing pressure as they tried to use their talented back division. Heathfield will take much pleasure in the way that their defence generally held against a team which had scored at least twenty points in all their previous games this season. With fifteen minutes remaining a home flanker ran a fine line to outwit the Heathfield defence although he perhaps touched down too quickly as the difficult conversion went wide (12-18).
Sevenoaks dominated position and possession for the rest of the game but somehow Heathfield doggedly refused to buckle in the tense last moments. The home supporters will claim that a penalty try should have been awarded at one point but the decisions on the day probably evened out.
Heathfield will take a great deal of encouragement from this game, not just in the result but also in the performance. Having lost several close away games the coaching team will be well pleased with the discipline and determination of the whole squad.
For the fourth successive week Chris Ambrosino polished the subs bench with his characteristic diligence and was disappointed not to make an appearance. But this is looking a more settled team than some in recent years and that may be starting to make a difference.
Man of the Match was a straightforward decision for Coach Dave Jones. Even if Bayly had not scored his two tries, his all-round performance caught the eye of many seasoned observers. It is impressive to see one of last year’s Colts already making an impact in such a competitive area.
Heathfield now look forward to the visit this Saturday (3 Nov 2.30) of Charlton Park who are again flying high in the table but with whom Heathfield normally have a decent contest.