Folkestone fightback foils Heathfield
Nine tries as Folkestone change tactics to overtake early Heathfield lead.
Folkestone eventually won this entertaining nine try game while Heathfield were left shaking their heads at letting go a game that they had led 15-0 and in which they had looked in complete control.
The league table before the game suggested that this would be a close contest with both sides only losing one game since the new year and just five league points between them.
After some early aerial exchanges Heathfield secured good position following a fine Bryn Jones kick. The subsequent lineout catch and drive was efficiently executed and Andy Noble collected the first of his three tries on the day.
Another try soon followed with Noble making the initial line break which was carried on by Ollie Brown and after some tussles Noble plunged over in the clubhouse corner(10-0).
Heathfield were looking firmly in control and an excellent line kick by Harry Reilly again gave them good field position leading to an extended period of play in the visitors 22. At one point Munch May made a decent break in heavy traffic, carried on by Noble but finally Ollie Brown was held up.
However a try did come as the Heathfield scrummage pressured the visiting pack and after a couple of penalties the Folkestone 7 was yellow carded for malpractice at the breakdown. At the next scrum the home pack drove forward for Oli Robertshaw to touch down (15-0).
With a quarter of the game gone Folkestone take huge credit for their reaction to this situation. They stopped some of the ineffective kicking that had been used and kept the ball in hand. They played to their strengths and looked to move the ball wide when possible thus exposing a narrow home defence. This works when the line speed is good but unlike the previous Heathfield game against Bromley this did not happen today. Also Folkestone had one of the outstanding players in todays’ game in their fly half, Adam Tolman who was as at the heart of most of the visitor’s attacks.
Folkestone started to build some pressure into the home half and a couple of well-timed passes saw them over the home try line but were denied by a second movement.
Heathfield continued to have plenty of chances with one delightful break by Jones taken on by Ken Hellier only denied by a brave interception.
However the last few minutes of the half generally belonged to Folkestone and a quickly taken penalty, followed by good support allowed Tolman to dive over (15-7). The conversion was successful and, while the wind made conditions difficult, this aspect was probably crucial on the day with the visitors missing just two of six kicks while Heathfield failed to convert any of their five tries.
In the second half an early Folkestone attack was just held up but a fine try soon came in the left hand corner, impressively converted (15-14). This seemed to stir Heathfield back into life and an extended sequence of play ended with an efficient forward drive allowing Noble to collect his third try (20-14).
Tom Pritchard and Damien Pestell now joined the contest replacing Richard Cooley and Kobe Tonkin, the latter having made an especially useful contribution. Another lineout catch and drive now gave Robertshaw his second try on the day (25-14). With just over 20 minutes to go this should have been conclusive but Folkestone calmly played their way back into the game soon reducing the deficit with a penalty (25-17).
Another penalty chance just went wide but they soon struck again with another try from excellent handling in their backs, again well converted (25-24). While Hellier in particular was noted with some massive tackles, the Heathfield defensive effort lacked the intensity it had shown in the previous game against Bromley.
The game was won by another Folkestone penalty (25-27) and they collected the deserved icing on the cake with a bonus point try following an interception as Heathfield attempted to snatch victory at the death (25-32).
Results elsewhere mean that Heathfield are now third in the table with two games remaining. Horsham are deserved league winners and Dartfordians have also secured promotion. Heathfield next visit Gillingham, probably for the first time in the clubs’ history (28 March 3.00). But Heathfield are very much in the entertaining contest for the third place bragging rights along with Old Dunstonians, Bromley and Folkestone.
A league reorganisation at the end of next season would mean the end of contests between Heathfield and Folkestone at this level. Today’s game showed that this would be a considerable loss.