Sheer bloody-mindedness wins
First half points just enough as Heathfield dogged defence just holds out
Bromley 10 – Heathfield 23
Bromley have one of the best defensive records in this league but they conceded three tries in the first half which proved too much for them to overhaul against a dogged Heathfield defence.
The Bromley pitch was in excellent condition, all credit to the ground staff, on a welcome sunny day with a variable breeze across the pitch and the decent crowd was duly rewarded by a gripping contest between two sides scrapping near the top of the table.
Bromley won the toss and elected to play up the slope – Heathfield would probably have done the same.
Early Heathfield pressure soon led to a penalty and Harry Reilly was able to open the scoring (0-3). Nonetheless Bromley soon retaliated with a couple of turnovers at the breakdown and levelled the scores approaching the end of the first quarter with the only score in the game at the top end of the pitch (3-3). The home pack was showing plenty of appetite for the contest and this was becoming an excellent game.
One of the key moments now arrived as a sliced kick out of defence was fumbled by the home left winger, Ollie Brown pounced on the ball and was over the line before any cover could arrive (3-8).
The visitors were starting to build some decent momentum, especially in their forward drives. Linked to a strong scrummage, this meant that the home side was under pressure at this stage. However they managed some useful counter-attacks including a couple of eye-catching runs by their left winger. They also managed one well-organised rolling maul which hinted at second half events.
The last few minutes of the half were all Heathfield. First another Reilly penalty stretched the lead to 3-11. Then a lineout from a penalty outside the home 22 gave Heathfield the opportunity to set up their driving maul and thirty yards later Andy Noble touched down for an emphatic score, duly converted by Reilly.
Heathfield were now hammering away at the home try line. Ethan Walker thought he had touched down after an extended sequence of play in the home bottom corner but was adjudged to have bumped into one of his own players in the process. Walker had an excellent game with muscular runs in attack and made important tackles throughout. Some frantic efforts by Heathfield near the home try line produced turnovers and errors causing alternate elation and frustration on both sides. But finally another Heathfield maul set up Noble to claim his second try on the day (3-23).
These few minutes probably decided the game as in the second half Bromley had a similar amount of pressure in the same area without collecting points.
Heathfield have plenty of experience of playing on sloping pitches as anyone who has played at Waldron will know. So the mature travelling supporters knew that a twenty point lead was not conclusive and Bromley soon showed that they thought that they could achieve a result from this apparently unpromising situation.
A penalty gave them good field position and excellent support play gave them a converted try within five minutes of the restart (10-23). George Leney with another broken nose was replaced by Dylan Eames although the latter was himself soon replaced by Fraser Goatcher because of injury.
The Heathfield scrummage had another very effective day winning a number of penalties and this was an important part of the explanation for the final result as it provided a sure foundation.
Bromley were starting to build some pressure on the visitors but were now handicapped by a yellow card for a prop, possibly for a tip tackle. There were several similar incidents during the game (none of them malicious) which did not attract that level of sanction and he may well have been unlucky.
The last fifteen minutes of play were almost entirely in the Heathfield 22 as Bromley swarmed forward and a score seemed inevitable. The home team spurned one penalty opportunity and took a tap but failed to gain any benefit. Bromley did cross the line on at least two occasions but were adjudged to have been held up. Their rolling maul threatened several times but somehow green hands disrupted the drives.
In these desperate circumstances Jesse Muir and, near the end, skipper Ollie Smith received yellow cards as the whole team threw their bodies on the line. It would be unfair to pick any individual out in what was an outstanding team performance of sheer bloody-mindedness. Even with a two man advantage the home team could not quite manage to break down the visiting defence.
Heathfield now have a week off which will be much appreciated by some battered bodies and then they entertain Folkestone (21 March 3.00) who are one of the four teams challenging for third place in this entertainingly competitive league. The observer from Folkestone on the touchline today will have noted that scoring against this Heathfield side is not easily achieved.