Dominant scrummage earns scrappy draw
Heathfield's best scrummaging of the season was not quite enough to gain a surprise win
Heathfield 15 Bromley 15
Looking at the league table before the game Heathfield would probably have been delighted to secure two points for a draw but in the event they were left annoyed at their failure to secure a win that was definitely there for the taking.
On a damp, misty day with no wind Heathfield had first use of the slope and were soon exerting pressure on the visitors. Bromley senior management had acknowledged beforehand that they had concerns about elements of their scrummage and it soon became apparent that their fears were justified. A penalty try from the scrummage, converted by Ken Hellier, gave the home side their best start so far this season.
However Bromley are having a very decent season and are playing with considerable confidence so they almost immediately retaliated with a penalty (7-3).
Heathfield now had a period of sustained pressure with three five metre scrums but in spite of their clear scrummage superiority they failed to collect any points. Bromley are especially proud of their defence this season and they certainly showed plenty of determination and skill in this period. This sequence ended with a Heathfield penalty being kicked into the corner for a great attacking position only for them to concede a penalty at the lineout.
Finally after half an hour another penalty chance was converted by Hellier (10-0) but this was a poor return for a period of such dominance.
The half ended with more Heathfield attacks but too many errors prevented any further scoring.
Sadly the game had been disrupted by errors and an unusually high penalty count against both sides although no cards had yet been issued. The ball was greasy but conditions were otherwise reasonable so it was disappointing that this was such a poor game.
The home lineout worked well all day with Andy Noble again a dominant figure in this phase. The Heathfield scrummage was the major feature with the front row of Jesse Muir, Richard Cooley and skipper Ollie Smith having an excellent day. Second rows Ed Koops and Henry Ross both had decent games with Ross in particular catching the eye with lineout steals and hard work in mauls. George Leney did much unobtrusive but critical work at the breakdown.
In the first few minutes of the second half it appeared that the Bromley scrummage had tightened up and they were not under so much pressure. Indeed Bromley started the half with a period of pressure. However Heathfield gradually regained control and drove back upfield where insistent pressure resulted in two yellow cards in quick succession for a Bromley flanker and then a member of their front row.
A few minutes later Heathfield exploited the difference in numbers at the scrummage and Ollie Robertshaw duly touched down a routine pushover try (15-3).
Soon after this scrummaging became uncontested which certainly suited the visitors. Bromley worked their way into the Heathfield 22 and then Heathfield stood back awaiting the whistle for an apparent knock on only for a visiting second row to take full advantage and dive over near the posts (15-10).
Scrummaging became contested again as the binned players returned. The rest of the game, until the last few minutes, continued to be a scrappy unsatisfactory affair with defences being dominant.
Then with a few minutes remaining Bromley achieved good field position although one of their props now had to leave the field through injury. It was decided that scrums should again be uncontested although Heathfield were unhappy with this decision.
Bromley showed their will to win and a winger managed to squeeze into the left hand corner, thus tying the scores (15-15), although the match-winning conversion just failed. In the few seconds remaining in the match their kicker had another chance to win the game but again this just failed.
It could be argued that the high count of errors and penalties meant that neither side deserved to win. Heathfield can only blame themselves for failing to seal a victory in their major period of dominance in the first half.
The next league match is on 6 December (2.15) when Heathfield visit Folkestone with whom there have been many fine contests in the past and the league table suggests that this could be another close game.