Mud & Medway down waterlogged Heath
Heathfield finished their league campaign with a narrow but fair loss to Medway in seriously wet conditions.
Heathfield 6 Medway 14
The weather was possibly the winner on the day as most players struggled to cope with mud, rain, wind and fickle fate in circumstances that most have not had to deal with previously.
Both coaches had agreed to play on the pitch outside the clubhouse although it was wet even before the rain arrived. This allowed Heathfield veteran Julian Wates to play his final game on the excellent Cypress surface as the home third team scraped home by seventy one points. Indeed the contest between the two first team coaches was one of the chief entertainments on the day for those on the touchline and no mere Anglo-Saxon dared to intervene as Dave and Taff exchanged opinions throughout the afternoon.
On a surface that became increasingly slimy in the frequent rain squalls, handling was always difficult although both teams tried to play as much rugby as possible. Heathfield had the slight slope advantage in the first half and opened the scoring with a penalty by Harry Reilly making his Heathfield first team debut (3-0). A product of Heathfield’s junior system, Harry will score many more points in senior rugby, whichever teams he plays for.
Medway replied almost immediately with a penalty (3-3) and the rest of the half was a tale of kickers. Both teams missed chances before both again succeeded (6-6). There is little else to say about this period of the game as the packs grappled with each other and the conditions. Refereeing in these circumstances is a thankless task and, Welsh coaches aside, everyone just got on with the game.
The Medway pack were starting to look effective in their driving mauls and their lineout was probably their strongest feature on the day. Nearing half time they achieved good position in the home 22 after a number of penalties which caused the referee to warn Heathfield captain James Walsh about an imminent yellow card. At the subsequent lineout Richard Cooley was adjudged to have taken out a jumper in the air and was duly rewarded with a ten minute respite. This allowed Medway to arrive at half time with a narrow lead (6-9).
Neither side dominated the scrummage but the visitors certainly won the lineout battle which was disappointing after the accuracy achieved by most of the same Heathfield participants a week earlier. In the prevailing conditions this was probably the deciding factor. The home team had to make a number of substitutions with Oli Robertshaw and Michael Nise making significant contributions. However Robertshaw was binned for an alleged dangerous tackle about which touchline opinion was very mixed (but completely polite!)
Most of the second half was played in the home half as the visiting pack controlled majority possession and the game was decided by the only remaining score as a Medway flanker dived over from close range after a period of insistent pressure (6-14). Heathfield managed the occasional breakout but never looked like collecting a penalty to secure even a losing bonus point.
Over the season Heathfield and Sevenoaks both won eight games – but the latter collected six more bonus points and thus finish ahead of Heathfield although their points difference is worse. Stattos and nerds can discuss!
Any other comments are inhibited by a waterlogged notebook but in truth there was little memorable about this game. However this was an afternoon which restored many home supporters faith in the game with both teams enjoying a full-blooded and spirited contest while respecting each other. Heathfield will look forward to their games against Medway next season.