Heathfield eventually claim away bonus win
Heathfield eventually secured a bonus point away win but not before a young Lewes team had threatened to achieve a remarkable turnaround.
Lewes 16 Heathfield 35
Conditions were excellent and Heathfield had first benefit of the steady breeze, with the sun on their backs and in the face of the home side. From the early exchanges it was apparent that the Heathfield scrummage had a distinct edge and that Lewes were keen to run the ball from almost anywhere.
A Lewes attempt to run out of their 22 was turned over and a flick on by Bryn Jones allowed Harry Reilly to make a delightful pass to Ethan Walker who finished well, duly converted by Ken Hellier (0-7). Five minutes later Henry Armstrong ran a kick back from deep and after a couple of phases good hands gave Jones just enough room for him to stride into the 22 and a firm handoff was enough to see him to the try line (0-12).
Given their poor season thus far it would not have been surprising if Lewes heads had started to drop but to their credit they now had a period of possession and good position in the visitors 22. However solid defence and secure first phase possession allowed Reilly to put in some handy positional kicks, putting Heathfield back on the front foot. This led to two Hellier penalties (0-18) and then with about five minutes remaining in the half at least two turnovers ended with some fraternal interplay as B Jones found his brother Sebastian who finished well near the left hand corner (0-23).
Nonetheless Lewes came straight back and put their first points on the board with a penalty (3-23).
Heathfield were enjoying clear dominance in the scrummage so it is surprising that the only penalty in that phase was against them for allegedly driving a prop up. Last week Horsham were rewarded for their dominance in the scrum so Heathfield were disappointed that this week they did not benefit from a similar scenario. Lineouts generally went with the throw while there seemed to be an unusually high number of turnovers by both sides.
The home backs had their moments with both wingers catching the eye which will have given Heathfield mixed emotions since one of those wingers was Gareth Lloyd, a product of the Heathfield junior system.
Lewes will have had hopes of coming back into the game if they could harness the breeze. Indeed, whoever the home coach spoke to at half time, it certainly had a definite impact. For the next twenty minutes Lewes steadily came back into the game and as a result of their pressure most decisions seemed to be going their way. Their try soon came as they efficiently exploited a close range tap penalty in the right hand corner (10-23), impressively converted by the home kicker who had an excellent day with the boot.
Kobe Tonkin and Tom Pritchard now joined the fray replacing Richard Cooley and Dylan Eames.
Two more home penalties put Lewes within seven points of the visitors and Heathfield supporters were becoming concerned. Ollie Robertshaw was sin-binned but oddly this may have served to concentrate Heathfield minds. Even with the extra man the Lewes scrummage was still under pressure. Once Robertshaw eventually returned Heathfield finished much the stronger. S Jones benefitted from a well-timed pass but still had some work to do to claim the bonus point try and his second on the day, converted by Hellier (16-30). Then consistent pressure in the left hand corner, working the blind side, saw Kobe Tonkin complete the scoring (16-35).
The Heathfield pack were probably the key factor on the day, securing enough good ball for the increasingly useful back division to finish the job. Jesse Muir had a decent all round game with some nice handling touches while Henry Ross was noted with hard work achieving some useful turnovers. Seb Jones was named man of the match afterwards as in addition to his two tries he had a good all round game with some important tackles. Sadly however this will be his last game for the club for a while as the travelling involved for him is too demanding and time-consuming.
Heathfield will be pleased to have secured an away bonus point win but will be concerned at the way they lost control in the third quarter. Lewes are a young side with plenty of spirit and they will be improving during the season so the return fixture should be good value.
After a week off Heathfield next visit promotion candidates Dartford (15 Nov 2.30) and will be looking to improve on their away performances in south London so far this year.