Improving Heathfield eventually overcome old local rivals
Heathfield returned to winning ways after some worthy but losing contests and the second half performance gave particular pleasure to the coaches
Heathfield 24 Uckfield 3
Matches between Heathfield and Uckfield have a long tradition of being keenly contested and this followed that pattern but the home team eventually turned possession into points and ran out comfortable winners.
The first half was a poor spectacle in terms of flowing rugby as the two teams fought for control but were hampered by too many errors and penalties. The visitors soon had a man in the bin for taking out a supporting player at a lineout although Heathfield were unable to take advantage as Harry Reilly just missed a long range penalty. The home scrummage had an edge throughout the game, perhaps benefitting from the kind donation of some pairs of boots by the local man, now of Harlequins and England, Joe Marler.
However the Uckfield lineout looked a good unit with plenty of variations and, especially in the first half, neither side dominated the breakdown. Sadly Ollie Brown had to leave the pitch with damaged ribs so Ethan Walker took over his wing and Tom Pritchard came onto the flank.
Most of the play at this stage was in the Uckfield half but on one of their rare breakouts they opened the scoring with a penalty (0-3). Then an Uckfield counterattack was just contained in the left hand corner and another long Reilly penalty attempt drifted wide. While the home side finished the half with more pressure, the outcome of the match seemed very much in the balance.
Henry Ross and Fraser Goatcher replaced Dylan Eames and Jess Muir just after half time. Heathfield are fortunate at present to have two fine young second rows in Eames and Ross who are both pressing the experienced Kobe Tonkin.
Some firm words at the interval soon had the desired effect as the home side made effective use of the slight slope and breeze to build pressure in the visitors’ half, also playing the game at a more measured, less frantic pace. A tap penalty was taken on by Ollie Smith making good yards and then a fine long pass by Bryn Jones found Rob Fenner who still had plenty of work to do before finishing well in the right hand corner, Reilly converting impressively (7-3).
A few minutes later a long positional kick by Jones was adjudged to have been carried over by the Uckfield full back and from the resulting five metre scrummage Ollie Robertshaw secured a classic No 8 try, again converted by Reilly (14-3).
The Uckfield number 8 was now binned for hands in the ruck following a team warning and as he had been carded earlier he took no further part in the game. Reilly extended Heathfield's lead with the resulting penalty (17-3). Nonetheless Uckfield came back strongly into the left hand corner and clearly felt that they were unfairly denied a score, but the home defence held out.
Scoring was completed as a finely judged chip by Jones into the left hand corner saw Sam Goatcher touch down, again well converted by Reilly (24-3).
After the disappointment in South London last week this was an encouraging performance. There are still questions about the composition of the back row but overall the pack had a much better day. The back division promises much but injuries and other issues mean that a settled combination will not be established soon. Nonetheless Jones and Reilly are becoming a formidable unit in midfield and Ken Hellier is quietly establishing himself as safe pair of hands, especially in defence. Munch May had more protection today compared to last week and duly illustrated how his game is maturing.
This week (27 Sep 3pm) Heathfield visit Hastings, another club we have not met in league competition for some years.