Heathfield miss winning opportunity
Aylesford won this scrappy affair because they took their chances while Heathfield had plentiful possession but could not convert this into points.
Aylesford 31 Heathfield 19
The early exchanges were frantic with plentiful errors as both teams are in the lower part of SE2 and regarded this as an important opportunity to collect league points so the teams were well fired up for the occasion. The visitors had some early possession and Jamie Walsh made several precise kicks gaining useful position from which Sam Goatcher was able to collect the first points (0-3). From the restart Aylesford kicked deep into their right hand corner and then turned over a defending lineout which they exploited efficiently for their full back to enter the line and touch down near the left hand corner (7-3).
Almost immediately the home team doubled their score through a piece of striking individual play as their right wing collected the ball near their 22 and touched down under the posts showing the benefit of sheer pace, one important element that Heathfield currently lack (14-3).
In spite of these setbacks for the rest of the half Heathfield managed to play decent rugby, controlling possession and generally looking the better team. One attack into the right hand corner was held up over the line but a few minutes later an attacking lineout in the same areea was efficiently exploited and David Bayly claimed a deserved try (14-8).
More Heathfield pressure was just contained by the home defence as Levi Willis came off his wing to join the party and make good yards. Goatcher now missed one penalty chance while the home side star right winger made another handy run but then had to be replaced through injury. The game was in the balance and the visitors now scored an apparently critical try as a Walsh break allowed David Yates to put Goatcher into space and he had the pace to finish well in the left hand corner (14-13).
Although a point behind at half time the visitors will have been optimistic as their pack was looking increasingly in control. Calum Fraser making his first appearance for Heathfield at this level did well in the loose and the scrummage seemed to improve during the game as he became acquainted with his props.
However Aylesford started the second half very positively and after regaining possession from the kickoff, a penalty and efficent hands resulted in a try in their left hand corner, impressively converted (21-13). Nothing daunted Walsh reduced the deficit with a penalty (21-16) and the outcome looked very open. Ollie Robertshaw, Joe Burford and Ben Smith all made useful contributions off the bench.
Another period of Heathfield pressure resulted in two kickable penalty opportunities, one of which was successful (21-19). Some visiting supporters felt that kicking for the corner would have been more productive in these situations but those involved are often best placed to make the decision.
With just two points in it and the minutes counting down, both teams were looking for a result when the game was decided, perhaps fortuitously, as a speculative kick ahead was lost in the lights by the Heathfield defenders and a home player following up was able to collect the ball and stroll over (28-19). Another home penalty removed even the sniff of a chance for losing bonus point for Heathfield (31-19).
This was an even match and home advantage, including familiarity with playing under lights, may have been key. Heathfield will look forward to the return fixture although they may not be able to match the cream tea kindly provided to visiting supporters. There were a number of positives for Heathfield although they have to start collecting points soon if a drop to SE3 is to be avoided. The injury issues look to be receding for now and the pack in particular would appear to be a match for most teams in the league.
This Saturday (2.30 30 Nov) Heathfield visit Tunbridge Wells.