Old Dunstonians 31 Heathfield 18
Heathfield were put firmly in their place by a dogged and more determined Old Dunstonian side
Reality check! The apparent promise of two decent performances in practice games against higher rated sides was brushed aside as Heathfield were put firmly in their place by a dogged and more determined Old Dunstonian side who took their chances, but more importantly dominated the contact area. When the pressure came on Heathfield showed that their often talented individuals are not yet a team.
Heathfield had the benefit of the slope in the first half although the opposing breeze generally balanced this out. The home team was handicapped early on by the loss of a second row through injury and their scrummage duly suffered throughout the game.
In the early exchanges Heathfield looked comfortable but the home team ruined this by efficiently exploiting a turnover and good support put them over for converted try (7-0). This did not seem to matter as Heathfield swept down to the left hand corner but the home defence just held out. However Heathfield continually made mistakes and handed momentum to the home side. Two penalties for each side demonstrates the fluctuating nature of the game and shortly before half time the result was very much in the balance (13-6). Then just before half time Andy Noble was rightly binned for a tap tackle and Old D’s reached half time with a ten point lead.
While the Heathfield scrummage was generally secure and in control, neither team dominated the lineout so the breakdown was crucial and this is probably where the home team won the game. They seemed to be hungrier for the ball and won more turnovers. They also played the referee better than Heathfield who were left looking aggrieved but naive. Both sides suffered from injury issues. Richard Cooley replaced Fraser Goatcher and made his usual mark in the scrummage against the unusually tall home tight head who otherwise had a storming game making many yards in open play.
Old D’s made the psychologically important first score in the second half (21-6) through some good support play just before Noble returned from the bin. The home side then extended their lead by another penalty (24-6) and the game looked gone for the visitors.
However Heathfield dominated most of the rest of the game although two tries were not enough to change the result. A remarkably lengthy period of play in the home half saw at least four five metres scrums with Heathfield going forward but somehow finding a way not to score. The frustration felt by the visitors was only matched by the surprise at the number of offences by the home side in this period before another yellow card was issued.
Chris Elliott collected a try from a breakout from deep while the home side were a man down as the back division hinted at what might have been (21-13). The home left winger then scored a fine individual try after the ball had squirted out from the scrummage. The scoring was completed by Dylan Eames who collected his first try at this level, a deserved reward for his all-round performance in both tight and loose where he was often noticed as one of the more combative in a pack that operated too often as individuals (31-18).
This Saturday Heathfield look forward to entertaining Uckfield in a league game for the first time for several years. Results elsewhere suggest that this is going to be a highly competitive league.