Improving Heathfield gain away win
Heathfield eventually emerged as worthy winners at the end of a fluctuating game in which the lead changed hands several times.
Folkestone 15 Heathfield 25
In excellent conditions Heathfield started on the front foot from the kickoff as Ed Koops made decent impact and allowed the visitors to regain possession. Heathfield had several minutes of possession and position in the home half without reward. However the first score came as Folkestone with their first decent piece of possession from a scrummage efficiently followed up a well-judged kick ahead and good support secured them a deserved try (5-0).
As the game settled down the Heathfield scrummage started to exert some pressure with Ollie Smith giving the home tight head a difficult afternoon and reaping a couple of penalties. The visiting scrummage had a clear edge although without the complete domination from last week. Nonetheless most Heathfield scrummage ball was on the front foot in addition to at least three taken from the home put-in so Jesse Muir, Richard Cooley and Smith continue to impress as an effective unit.
Neither side took control for the rest of the first half with both defences proving effective. In one period of pressure a long range Heathfield penalty by Ken Hellier drifted wide but almost immediately he was successful with another attempt (5-3).
Somewhat unusually for this fixture there appeared to be a little niggle between the teams causing the referee to warn both sides. With five minutes left in the half the home fly half was binned for a late tackle. Right on half time some accurate kicking out of hand by Bryn Jones provided good field position and a routine catch and drive allowed Andy Noble to touch down, converted by Hellier (5-10).
The half time penalty count of two against Heathfield as opposed to seven against the home team was partly a reflection of the pressure being exerted by the visitors mainly through their solid set piece work. However good situations were often spoiled as they tried to play too much rugby in wrong parts of the field – passes out of the back of the hand as seen on tv were used without the appropriate support runners in place.
Haydn-James Parker was seeing plenty of the ball, often in running back kicks, and he continues to make a good impression.
Some early second half pressure by Folkestone resulted in a home penalty (8-10) and Cooley being binned. However the home team failed to capitalise further on the man advantage and indeed the three points were almost immediately cancelled out as Heathfield pressure ended with another Hellier penalty for offside (8-13).
This was now an entertaining and competitive match with both sides fancying their chances. Folkestone had a good period and although a penalty chance was missed they had some momentum and a decent break by the home fly half created a position for a well-timed run by a flanker to crash over for a converted try (15-13).
However that was the end of the good news for the home supporters as Heathfield’s majority possession bore fruit. With fifteen minutes left Jimmy Stevenson-Wright ran back a kick out of defence by the home side, expertly tied up the home defenders and then a precise pass gave Ollie Brown all the space he needs and he finished well in the right hand corner (15-18).
Almost immediately Stevenson-Wright completed a purple patch by scoring a fine individual try in the same corner and Hellier ended the scoring with the difficult conversion (albeit off the cross-bar) (15-25).
The last few minutes were frantic at times as the home side tried to salvage something from the game but most of the play was in their 22. Heathfield had one more penalty chance when they could perhaps have been thinking about going for the bonus point try but after the last couple of difficult years they are just pleased to be winning.
In the second half especially Heathfield provided one of their best performances this year as this side has started to work more effectively as a team. The set piece is in excellent shape while improvement is certainly possible in the taking of opportunities and the avoidance of errors.
Next week Heathfield entertain Gillingham for the first time in the history of the two clubs (13 Dec 2.15).