Heath edge out old boys
The home team won this entertaining match in which they went ahead early although the visitors played some decent rugby and were unfortunate not to secure even a losing bonus point.
Heathfield 27 Old Dunstonians 19
Both sides scored three tries but the boot of Heathfield’s Ethan Walker was ultimately the deciding factor.
Conditions were good, a welcome relief after recent weeks, resulting in fewer handling errors and both sides attempting to play open rugby. After some fluctuating initial skirmishes, Heathfield established good position in the visitors’ half and quick ruck ball was well taken on by Munch May and prop Matt Finney before David Yates worked his way over near the left hand corner in spite of several tacklers (7-0). This is the second week in a row that Finney’s handling has helped create a try. Walker converted securely and his kicking continues to impress with just one penalty miss alongside four other successful kicks.
A few minutes later James Walsh chipped through the advancing defence, Ollie Brown recovered the ball and his pace created the opportunity for Kobe Tonkin to collect a deserved try (14-0). Soon afterwards Walker just missed a penalty chance for the only time on the day and the visitors’ inside centre was sin-binned, probably for off-side. This was a frequent offence on the day and while this led to plenty of penalties thereby disrupting the flow of the game, it is good to see this law being enforced thus giving players space.
From this unpromising situation in which many teams would have folded, Old D’s began to demonstrate why they have won several games recently with excellent support play combined with pacey running. They scored two good converted tries from broken play, with their lineout providing a secure source of possession (14-14). After the early scores the home supporters had been anticipating a comfortable victory but the game had become a good contest. However a Walker penalty edged Heathfield in front on the stroke of half time (17-14).
Heathfield had a major edge in the scrummage in the first half although this seemed to be less in the second half. Nonetheless the home pack took several against the head for which hooker Richard Cooley takes deserved credit to go with another committed and mobile performance in open field play. All of the home front row had a good day with Ollie Smith making some characteristic charges ball-in-hand. However the Old D’s lineout were probably the best unit seen at Cross-In-Hand all year securing their own ball and much of Heathfield’s.
Heathfield’s coach Dave Jones was disappointed that his team did not follow the game plan as the ball was moved wide too early or kicked away. The visitors’ full-back was their standout player with pace and remarkable ability to wriggle out of tackles. He was well supported by other members of their back division and they looked capable of scoring from any position on the field given possession.
The third quarter was a scrappy affair with several Heathfield changes from injury. David Bayly made a typically committed contribution in place of David Yates who had a nasty clash of heads. Ollie Brown had to retire with a serious leg injury thus adding to the extensive casualty list which has affected almost a complete first choice back division. Play was all over the field and the game was definitely in the balance. As the game entered the last quarter Lee Vockins replaced May and soon made a good break through the middle of a lineout which was taken on by Bayly. From the resulting scrum Heathfield’s number eight was able to dummy his way over for what was probably the decisive score (24-14).
The visitors responded well to this and played some of their best rugby on the day being duly rewarded with a try although crucially the conversion drifted wide (24-19). The last score came from another Walker penalty (27-19). Old D’s again responded positively to this and pressure resulted in a yellow card for Charlie Smith. However the visitors were unable to exploit the extra man.
Old Dunstonians played some decent rugby and looked too good for the league below while Heathfield can now look to the remaining games to secure a decent mid-table finish. This Saturday Heathfield visit Warlingham (9 Mar 3.00).