Heath eventually edge Lewes
In an entertaining game, both sides scored two tries but Heathfield generally had the edge on their more highly ranked opponents.
Heathfield 20 Lewes 12
In spite of appalling weather earlier in the day with numerous postponed matches elsewhere, conditions improved during the afternoon and the Cypress field again delivered an excellent playing surface.
In the early skirmishes the home pack looked keener than the visitors and this was helped when after barely two minutes the Lewes scrum half was binned for taking a man out in the air. Heathfield had more position and possession at this stage but missed one longish penalty chance and they were unable to take any score board advantage for the extra man. With Lewes back to full strength the home team continued to have most of the play and Jamie Walsh opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty (3-0). Shortly afterwards a precisely-directed penalty kick allowed Walsh to give Heathfield good position in the corner and after several phases Ollie Robertshaw finished off a smart sequence of handling by working his way over, duly converted by Walsh (10-0). Robertshaw had one of his best games this year with a noticeable physical performance.
This was always a close game and Lewes now had an extended period of pressure on the home try line with repeated scrums and lineouts testing the home defence. Eventually the ball went wide to the other touchline and Mono Thewlis made a try-saving tackle in the corner. However he immediately reduced his credit balance by knocking the ball out of an opposition player’s hand who was trying to take a quick tap. A yellow card was correctly issued.
Just after half an hour continued Lewes pressure ended with a try from a lineout catch-and-drive (10-5). However the half ended with another period of Heathfield possession in the visitors’ half.
Heathfield had the benefit of the slight slope and a variable breeze in the first half so the small lead never looked decisive. With occasional exceptions the lineout contest was generally even but Heathfield had a distinct advantage in the scrum where Richard Cooley caused his much larger opponent considerable grief, especially in the first half. Cooley had yet another fine all-round game with a critical tackle on a visiting back later in the game.
Early Heathfield pressure in the second half, including an eye-catching run by Ollie Brown, was rewarded by another Walsh penalty (13-5) but this just seemed to inspire the visitors who mounted a sequence of attacks which ended with their tight head plunging over from all of three yards (13-12).
This was now an excellent contest with both teams having periods of domination but neither being able to take control. The Lewes backs always looked dangerous and they have scored many tries against good teams this year so the home defence can take much pleasure from their performance.
The home substitutions included Toby Warren replacing Charlie Smith and Matt Skinner coming on for Robertshaw. Warren made one shuddering tackle on a sizeable opponent that drew some awed appreciative comment from nearby spectators while Skinner, on a happy return to this context, showed how much he has to offer with one run in particular beating opponents and making big yards.
With a few minutes remaining the game was decided as good home possession produced quick ball into mid-field and Tom Sheffield strolled under the posts (20-12).
Heathfield will therefore be in good heart when they visit Crowborough (6 April 3.00). Crowborough are having a fine season and are still in competition for a promotion play-off position. However Heathfield demonstrated today that on a good surface they can match teams in the top half of this league and will be looking forward to the encounter.