Heathfield win in South London
Heathfield collected a close but deserved away win against a dogged home side who ensured that the result was always
Old Dunstonians 12 Heathfield 14
Heathfield collected a close but deserved away win against a dogged home side who ensured Old Dunstonians 12 Heathfield 14
Heathfield collected a close but deserved away win against a dogged home side who ensured that the result was always in doubt.
Conditions were excellent with a well-grassed surface on a dry afternoon with little wind. Heathfield had first use of the slope towards the home clubhouse but the early play was all over the pitch as the teams tested each other out. The visitors’ lineout started well and maintained a high standard throughout the game with David Yates making the calls and taking some impressively high secure ball. Heathfield were starting to impose some level of control when an obvious offside penalty at a lineout against the visitors resulted in a kick to the corner and although the initial catch and drive was held, the Old D’s worked a centre over near the posts to open the scoring (7-0).
Heathfield replied almost immediately with a Joe Wood penalty as most of the play was now in the home half (7-3). Damien Pestell caught the eye with the first of several effective runs during the game and soon another Wood penalty closed the gap (7-6).
The consistent Heathfield pressure made a score seem imminent and Kobe Tonkin and Tom Pritchard wrestled their way over the line but were adjudged to have been held up.
Shortly before half time the home number eight was shown yellow but the resulting penalty could not be converted.
The Heathfield scrum had an increasing edge although the home tight head aged 51 belied the years with an admirable performance. Heathfield also dominated the lineout with Yates and David Bayly securing their own and pinching some home ball.
With all this possession questions have to be raised over why this is not being reflected on the scoreboard. The Old D’s defence takes much credit but some poor options were chosen in defence by Heathfield as attempts were made to run out of the 22 when a simple kick would have gained ground with decent prospects of retrieving possession given the effectiveness of the lineout.
Having failed to benefit from the slope in the first half Heathfield soon put things right as the referee played advantage for a knock-on and quick ruck ball saw Wood exploit the blind-side with pace and power to put Ollie Brown in for a simple try (7-11).
Old D’s were competing well in the loose and a penalty provided good field position from which a five metre scrum gave their number eight, probably their best player on the day, the opportunity to crash over for a well-taken try which critically went unconverted (12-11). However Brown had taken a knock to the head and was replaced by Charlie Smith. He and Ethan Walker also made some effective runs illustrating the competition for the wing positions.
This was now a well-contested game in which the Heathfield dominance of the set piece was being countered by resolute home defence. David Bayly continued the strong positive impression he has made this season as he always competed for the ball and on more than one occasion charged down home clearance kicks. However the outstanding performance on the day came from Yates who had his most complete game for the club so far with authority in the lineout, several good carries and a couple of emphatic tackles.
The final and decisive score came with more than fifteen minutes remaining as Jamie Walsh exploited good possession and position to drop a goal and thus retake the lead (12-14).
Both teams played most of the rest of the game a man short as repeated penalties at the breakdown led to a home player being binned and then Pestell joined him for a high tackle.
The home team probably had the better of the last few minutes with their lineout finally securing some ball and their left wing making one major break but the Heathfield defence eventually proved adequate.
An away win against another team in the lower half of the table is an important result in league terms. There was much to like about the Heathfield performance with the set piece in particular looking in very good order. However the coaching team will be paying particular attention to how the possession is being utilised and some of the tactical decision making.
This Saturday (24 Nov 2.30) Heathfield entertain Warlingham in what looks likely to be a very close encounter.