Crowborough overcome mud and dogged Heathfield
This game, a local Christmas Derby match between two Clubs who know each other well was keenly anticipated and was played on a very wet pitch in front of a large crowd.
Heathfield 0 Crowborough 12
Add the fact that newly promoted Crowborough are deservedly near the top of the league table and Heathfield are dangerously near the bottom and the ingredients were there for a vigorous encounter. The state of the pitch reduced the match to an error-ridden affair with neither side able to establish any control on the game. There was plenty of grunt, bravery and commitment from both sides but neither side were able to overcome the conditions and consequently a low scoring match was inevitable.
Crowborough started with a flourish running the ball deep into their opponents half and almost immediately a yellow card was shown to Bruce Pestell who is one of Heathfield`s key players and one of the best flankers in the league. It was not clear what the carding was for but the decision had a profound influence on the outcome of the match. Although Heathfield defended their line after the card and pushed Crowborough back into their own half it was not long before Crowborough took advantage of the extra man and opened the scoring with an exceptional try started and scored by Crowborough`s talented scrum half Ed Atkin. Without Pestell to police the blind side Crowborough`s scrum half who had spotted the space sprinted through the mud and although the cover reached him he was on hand to support his forwards drive and score near the posts. In dreadful kicking conditions the conversion was missed but Crowborough had their noses in front (0-5). It is interesting that the try scorer went on to play a major part in the game while Pestell, when he returned to the fray, was outstanding for Heathfield.
During the first half honours and territory were almost even. Crowborough looked threatening at times and to their credit attempted to play an open game when they could while Heathfield`s pack went well and the impressive David Yates was a commanding presence in the line out. Richard Cooley, playing in the number 2 shirt in the absence of Tom Pritchard worked impressively in tight and loose often securing turnover ball for his team. The excellent tackling and defence of both teams prevented any chance of further tries and at half time Crowborough had their slender five point lead intact.
There was a possibility of an upset in the second half when the ample and powerful Michael Nise made a number of strong carries often taking out a number of would be tacklers. On one run he carried 30 yards but the move broke down and Crowborough fly hacked the ball away from danger and deep into Heathfield`s 22. Crowborough recovered their composure and exerted pressure on the home side and after twenty minutes scored a try created by their forwards. The conversion helped to seal a hard won victory (0-12).
Crowborough deserved their win and are the only team this season to have prevented Heathfield from scoring. The home team showed great spirit against a side who will excel when the ground is drier and who will maintain a position near the top of a very tight league. It was a fiercely competitive game and both sides will relish the return fixture later in the season. Heathfield should take heart from this performance. Ollie Brown showed his class when running out of defence and Callum May played a courageous and skilful game at the base of the scrum. The Greenies and their coach Dave Jones have much to look forward to after the Christmas break although the next game is a visit to new territory when they visit Thanet Wanderers in Broadstairs (2.15 5 Jan 2013).