Heathfield power overcomes weather and Darts
The current second placed team in the league lost to three tries to none as the home forward power eventually took its toll in an excellent contest.
Heathfield 15 Old Dartfordians 3
The weather did its best to ruin the afternoon with steady drizzle followed by mist. Had the game been played on the pitch outside the Heathfield clubhouse it would have been a muddy arm-wrestle that would have pleased elderly prop forwards and frustrated everyone else. Thankfully the Cypress field continued to repay Heathfield’s investment and provided a decent surface for one of the best Cross-In-Hand matches this season.
Dartfordians had only lost three games before today while Heathfield have been on a good run of form since these two sides last met.
The first half was a closely fought, almost technical contest, as two well-matched sides tried to work each other out. Patterns did begin to appear: the home scrummage always had a clear edge although the penalties arising from this did not result until the second half. Early lineouts were messy with neither side consistently securing possession. The visitors defensive line was impressively quick and put the home backs under plenty of pressure. Inevitably some home supporters suggested that they were often offside but it may just be that they were rather good in this respect. They also looked dangerous in attack, especially in the first half and it took some decent cover tackling by Ollie Brown and Rob Fenner to contain them.
The first score came after twenty minutes when after a period of Dartfordian pressure including one missed penalty chance, they ran back a long drop out and Heathfield duly coughed up a straightforward penalty in front of the posts (0-3).
This was a thoroughly competitive, but clean, match that received the appropriate careful control. The referee made his point with yellow cards for Andy Noble and a visiting second row after some unseemly pushing and shoving at a lineout.
However from then on the story of the game was about the home pack. The driving maul gradually continued to sap the strength from the visitors and although points did not result immediately this was building a good situation for exploitation in the second half.
In the last minutes of the half insistent home pressure in the visitors’ half resulted in an attacking lineout but the resulting catch and drive was adjudged held up. However from the ensuing scrum a penalty was awarded for a binding infringement and Oli Robertshaw grabbed the ball to dive over before the defence could organise (5-3).
Noble had yet another huge game in all phases with some of his lineout catches being remarkable, almost gymnastic achievements. Ed Koops was putting in plenty of quietly effective hard work at close quarters and also carrying well although he may benefit from studying how rugby pitches are marked out.
The early part of the second half saw increasing use of the rolling maul by Heathfield and almost all of the play was in the visitors’ half. Dartfordians were struggling to gain any possession and the physical pressure was taking its toll on their pack.
After fifteen minutes good ruck ball was moved left and a delightful chip by Bryn Jones allowed Harry Reilly to slide over in the left hand corner (10-3).
Jo Rushton and Fraser Goatcher joined the fray and both made positive contributions, keeping the pressure on the visiting pack.
The best try of the day now came as Heathfield pressed into the visitors’ 22 and behind a central ruck Ken Hellier switched left, drawing defenders with him, only for the ball to be moved right and a sweet pass from Jones gave Reilly all the space he needed. A show-and-go opened up the defence and he had just enough pace to reach the right hand corner for his second try on the day (15-3).
Dartfordians did manage some late thrusts into the home half but it had become clear that the home defence could contain them. The game ended with another home attack into the left hand corner but Fenner was adjudged to have been held up.
It just wasn’t Dartfordians day. However barring disasters they should be promoted. Afterwards Heathfield head coach Dave Jones was pleased with the whole team performance, with the pack getting particular praise.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit Bromley (7 Mar 3pm) with whom they had an incident packed match earlier this season that ended in a draw and who currently occupy third place in the league, just one point ahead of Heathfield. With just four games remaining, Heathfield still have to play Old Dunstonians and Folkestone who are also in close attendance in the table so their final position is very much in Heathfield’s own hands.