Improved Heathfield performance but Park deserve win
An excellent game of rugby was deservedly won by the visiting Charlton Park but Heathfield can take considerable encouragement out of the game.
Heathfield 14 Charlton Park 23
An excellent game of rugby was deservedly won by the visiting Charlton Park but Heathfield can take considerable encouragement out of the game. After a number of disappointing second half performances recently, Heathfield dominated the latter stages of the game and the league second–placed teams’ defence did well to hold out.
The early exchanges saw both sides have periods of pressure and the visitors looked impressive with their big forwards, support play, off-loading and lines of running. Even so Heathfield also had their moments with Tom Sheffield noted making good yards and Joe Wood duly slotted a penalty (3-0).
However the sizeable visiting pack were starting to make an impact and the home scrummage was under some pressure. In spite of playing into the wind Park had the better of possession and territory at this stage and they scored two tries with effective use of their large forwards although neither was converted (3-10). After half an hour the visiting kicker finally registered on the scoreboard with a penalty (3-13).
The visitors might have had another try but the referee was unsighted at the critical moment.
However about now the home side started to feel that they had something to say and in several phases were making an impression. A scrum against the head allowed Damien Pestell, who a few moments before had appeared to be struggling with injury, to make many yards and initiate an attack that reached the visiting twenty two. Shortly afterwards Wood kicked another goal (6-13).
Nonetheless Park counter-attacked and were awarded a penalty at a scrummage although the kick slid wide. Interpretations of the laws as regards scrummaging will always be subjective but it could not be said that a consensus was achieved today between the official and front rows.
At half time the visitors may have felt that the hard work had been done since they had been playing into the wind in the first half. However Heathfield now produced their best second half of this season so far and this became a high-tempo quality game which did credit to both sides. Heathfield had dominant possession but Park are deservedly second in the table and their defence generally coped very efficiently.
Initially Heathfield had an excellent drive upfield in spite of an initial knock-on from the kick-off. However the visitors scored first in this half as they quickly exploited a tap penalty to touch down on the right flank and their kicker converted impressively (6-20).
Nonetheless the home team were now playing with tempo and a confidence that has been rarely seen so far this season. Wood soon collected another penalty (9-20).
With a majority of possession for Heathfield most of the play was in the visitors’ half. Wood and Ethan Walker were noted making good yards with their back row often in enthusiastic support, driving mauls yards forward.
The consistent pressure resulted in at least two major chances. Sheffield was tackled as, if not before, he was passed the ball right on the visitors’ try line while Ollie Smith had an emphatic rumble into the visiting twenty two but could not find support at the right moment.
Eventually after yet another useful carry by Pestell, David Yates muscled his way over for a deserved score (14-20). At this stage Heathfield had a losing bonus point and continued pressing with decent hope of managing to steal a win. However this was not to be as a penalty on the halfway line allowed a recently substituted Park kicker to make the game safe for them (14-23). Indeed he was close with another attempt from even further shortly afterwards but the game finished without another score.
Although losing today, Heathfield will be well-pleased with their second-half performance in particular given their lacunae in this area previously this season. This match was played on the Cypress field rather than on the pitch outside the clubhouse. Heathfield, principally through generous supporters, has invested a significant amount of money in this pitch and days like today show that this is money well spent as the excellent playing surface allowed a quality game to take place.
Heathfield may have a Sussex Cup game next week at home against Pulborough although it seems more likely that they will have a week off before visiting Old Dunstonians on 17th November (2.30) in their next league fixture.