Miserable conditions, great pitch - and another narrow loss
Heathfield lost another close game in which, not for the first time this year, the opposition took their chances better than the home team.
Heathfield 10 Warlingham 19
That this match happened at all is a tribute to the quality of Heathfield’s Cypress pitch which remained a superb playing surface throughout the day in spite of the volume of rain that prevented most other matches in the region.
Warlingham had the benefit of the diagonal breeze in the first half but after the early exchanges Heathfield took the lead with a penalty by Sam Goatcher (3-0) and unusually this was the only score until late in the half. There was little rain at this stage and both sides were trying to play decent rugby. The visitors will feel unhappy that what they felt was a valid try was disallowed after a kick through was not controlled by the home defence and the Warlingham winger appeared to reach the ball before it went dead. However on the half hour they took full advantage of tap penalty on Heathfield’s 22 with good hands and support (3-7).
In the last few minutes of the half the game seemed to break open with events all over the pitch and several commented that it felt more like the end of a match rather than a half. Heathfield generally had the better of this period with a try disallowed for a much-disputed forward pass. Then Charlie Smith made good ground down the left wing and when he was eventually stopped his opposite number was binned for malpractice at the breakdown. From the subsequent lineout Heathfield drove over the visitors’ line but the ball was adjudged to have been held up. Two critical missed opportunities that may well have decided the day.
In the first half Heathfield probably had a slight edge in possession although some of the line kicking was less than ideal. The home lineout worked well with Matt Finney finding David Yates especially with some nicely weighted throws. In the first half the scrummage was even but critically this was to change in the second half. Win Barrett had an impressive all-round game, scrapping for the ball in the loose and frequently carrying for useful yards in heavy traffic although sometimes outrunning his support.
With the slight breeze advantage Heathfield would have been optimistic of securing a result from this position. Indeed early in the second half they soon scored after a penalty led to a lineout from which quick ball saw Ethan Walker made a well-timed run through the centre for a fine try, duly converted by Goatcher (10-7).
However any optimism was immediately quenched as a home attempt to play too much rugby in their own 22 went wrong and from the resulting scrum the Warlingham pack efficiently secured a pushover try (10-14). This was not a surprise as the visiting pack was starting to have a clear edge in this phase.
Conditions in the second half became increasingly poor with spells of heavy blustery rain which made handling even more difficult and unpleasant for all. Heathfield made only occasional visits to the Warlingham half, at least partially because the home scrummage was producing scrappy possession.
Munch May replaced a hobbling Jamie Walsh but soon afterwards was binned for an alleged offence at the breakdown. In the clubhouse afterwards it was claimed that a Levi hand had actually been responsible. Warlingham duly capitalised on the extra man and secured the result with an unconverted try (10-19).
In the last few minutes Heathfield had a number of opportunities but the Warlingham defence proved just adequate as it generally had throughout the game.
Next week (11 Feb 2.15) Heathfield visit Medway who are having a decent season and will not have forgotten their loss to Heathfield earlier in the season.