Heathfield away win over game Pulborough
Heathfield win but denied a try bonus point by a committed and resilient home team who were unlucky not to gain a losing bonus point.
Pulborough 10 Heathfield 19
The pics in the associated album were taken by Harriet Mason Pearson.
Heathfield secured the kickoff and a succession of phases with goods hands took play into the home 22 only for the final pass to go astray and Pulborough were able to scramble clear. Unusually for so early in the game Ed Koops suffered a leg injury in that short period and had to be replaced by Tom Pritchard, necessitating some positional adjustments with Ollie Robertshaw moving into the second row and Andy Noble moving to 8.
The first half was unusual in that Heathfield had almost complete control of possession - of the order of over 90% - and most of the play was in the home half, but with one exception the well-organised home defence proved adequate. Repeatedly Heathfield attacks were ended by highly committed tackles. The visitors are trying to play an off-loading game but on at least three occasions in the first half the defence was able to snaffle the ball just when a score looked inevitable.
The one occasion in the half when the defence was finally beaten came at the end of an extended sequence of play as Andy Noble was held up just short but he managed to find Jesse Muir who dived over to open the scoring (0-5).
Fraser Goatcher was noted with several rumbles as Heathfield tried to prise open the defence. A promising five metre scrummage for the visitors was somehow disrupted as the home defence started to build in confidence that they could cope.
The half ended with almost the first home visit to the Heathfield half although without reaching the 22. Some Heathfield supporters felt that part of the failure to exploit so much possession came from some personnel and positional changes in the back division. Bryn Jones, the normal fly half is out with a ham string twinge so Harry Reilly was at 10. However Reilly has generally appeared in the centre so far this year while inside centre Ethan Walker has often been in the back row. This lack of familiarity in the back division combined with a committed and organised defence were reflected in the lack of penetration by the visitors in spite of so much possession.
Pulborough started the second brightly as they frequently chose to run back at the visitors and seemed to expose some casual tackling. However some Heathfield substitutions made an immediate impact. Richard Cooley replaced Goatcher and Koops returned to the second row. After several phases Jim Stevenson-Wright worked his way over near the left hand corner, well converted by Ken Hellier (0-12). Soon afterwards a dominant Heathfield scrummage rolled the opposing pack back and Ollie Robertshaw burrowed his way over, again converted by Hellier (0-19).
With 25 minutes remaining the visitors will have been starting to think about the bonus point try but to their huge credit Pulborough had much the best of the remaining time. A change of scrum half seemed to be part of the catalyst as they repeatedly ran at the visitors. The first home try was the subject of plenty of debate afterwards. Pulborough had earned good position with a lineout on the Heathfield 5 metre line. Heathfield chose not to engage when the ball was thrown in, but this ploy was not successful and the home pack strolled over to touch down while the defence waited for the penalty which never came (5-19).
This was now an entertaining game with play all over the pitch. Pulborough started to feel that they might get something out of the game while Heathfield continued to chase the bonus point try that seemed so tantalisingly close.
The last play of the game saw good hands help Pulborough work their way over near the left hand corner but the losing bonus point conversion hit the wrong side of a post (10-19).
Heathfield’s next league game is on 31 January (2.15) when they entertain Park House and the home team will be looking to put the record straight after the disappointing result there earlier this season.