Improving Heathfield in bonus point away win
Heathfield secured a finally comfortable five tries to one win over a determined Hastings team.
Hastings & Bexhill 10 Heathfield & Waldron 38
A generous length of grass covered a rock-hard surface but conditions were otherwise excellent on a warmish day with little wind. Newly promoted Hastings are still adjusting to the realities of this higher league while the visitors are absorbing new faces and developing as a team. On the day Heathfield had too much power and nous for a game but limited home team.
Hastings kicked off down the slope but Heathfield soon secured possession and began a period of pressure in the home half. One move found hooker Jesse Muir on the wing a few yards out but he couldn’t hang on to the ball. Muir is a sizeable unit who was often involved effectively all over the field. After ten minutes Heathfield pressure resulted in two penalty chances and although Harry Reilly missed the first one he was on target soon afterwards (0-3).
The home team responded positively to this setback and good play into the left hand corner saw a period of pressure on the visitors’ try line. After an attacking scrum and penalty, this resulted in a well-taken converted try (7-3) but this may just have served to wake up the visitors. Most of the game was now in the home half thanks to Heathfield enjoying a solid scrum and effective lineout. Eventually a set backs move from good scrum possession allowed Reilly to work his way over and then convert giving Heathfield the lead which they were not to surrender (7-10).
The secure, even dominant scrum was allowing Ollie Robertshaw to carry the ball very effectively off the base and Andy Noble was also making a considerable impression all over the field. Noble is a committed, mobile loose forward who secures excellent lineout ball, adding to the already decent range of lineout operators in the squad.
In the last few minutes of the half Heathfield set up camp in the home 22 and although Reilly missed another penalty chance that was soon forgotten as good hands and carrying by Fraser Goatcher and Noble in particular put Bryn Jones in to the left hand corner. Reilly naturally converted – he prefers difficult conversions to straightforward penalties (7 – 17).
Hastings reduced the deficit just before half time with a decent long range penalty (10-17) but the visitors will have felt the happier at the break with the slope and slight breeze to come in their favour in the second half.
Heathfield duly started the second half strongly and pressure on the home try line resulted in a yellow card for a home forward. The referee had a very decent game – the good ones are noticeable for not being noticed as they enable the game without exercising their ego and this was certainly the case today.
Heathfield made good use of the extra man as Robertshaw plunged over near the posts from short range (for the second week in a row), converted by Reilly (10- 24). Then good interplay allowed Ken Hellier to touch down in the right hand corner for the bonus point try and Reilly duly added the extra points (10-31).
Heathfield coach Dave Jones made full use of the bench with Dylan Eames, Tom Pritchard and Ollie Smith all joining the fray at different stages for both tactical and injury reasons.
However Hastings are a resilient team and caused plenty of problems for the visitors in the middle period of this half. Their full back was afterwards generally agreed to have been the stand-out performer on the day with many fine runs. The Heathfield coaches will have been concerned about several periods of play when the team seemed to lose concentration and/or leak penalties.
Nonetheless Heathfield completed the scoring with a try for skipper Sam Goatcher as good scrum ball was exploited by slick handling in the backs, converted from wide out again by Reilly (10-38).
The Heathfield back division continues to evolve and improve as Jones, Reilly and Hellier develop as a midfield combination. Ethan Walker made a series of eye-catching runs on the wing, relishing the physical contact, while Chris Elliott and Sam Goatcher had a number of opportunities together where the ball just didn’t fall for them.
A senior member of Hastings on the touchline was accidentally clattered by one of his players and was taken away by ambulance. Heathfield send their best wishes for his prompt recovery.
This Saturday (4 October 2.30) Heathfield visit somewhere near Putney for a first round RFU Senior Vase Cup game against London Exiles.