12 try romp in the sun
Heathfield finished their league season and Head Coach Dave Jones steps down with a twelve try romp in sunny conditions.
This was probably a game too far for Old Dunstonians for whom there was little in the game beyond third place bragging rights with no promotion possibilities while the home side were determined to give Head Coach Dave Jones a fitting finale.
In perfect conditions Heathfield, up the slope and into the wind, immediately seized the initiative and after a couple of phases Ethan Walker burst through the centre to touch down under the posts, duly converted by Ken Hellier (7-0). Hellier converted ten of the twelve tries on the day. Dunstonians immediately looked to reply and their dangerous right winger went on a meandering and threatening run which took a good tackle to contain. Sadly for him and his team he received a painful ankle injury which removed him from further involvement.
The visitors were reportedly missing a couple of Croatian international players and this may have partially accounted for the way that the home scrummage had a clear edge. However the visitors were also keen to play some open rugby and were making some useful attacks on the limited possession that they were achieving.
However Heathfield were enjoying majority possession and position so it was entirely with the run of play when just into the second quarter of the game another dominant home scrummage ended with Oli Robertshaw claiming the try (14-0).
As a contest the game was ended in the next few minutes as Heathfield collected two more tries. First veteran Kobe Tonkin was the eventual beneficiary of a driving maul (21-0) and then Harry Reilly finished off a move initiated by a lovely break by Bryn Jones (26-0), securing the try bonus point. While acknowledging that he was playing behind a dominant pack, Jones had a fine all round game with some combative defence allied with good tactical choices in attack.
Dunstonians did manage one period of pressure in the home bottom corner but the defence was adequate. Then a visiting flanker was yellow-carded for some malpractice at the breakdown. Heathfield duly took advantage as an efficient maul produced good ball and Ollie Brown appeared in the centre at the right moment to touch down under the posts (33-0).
The visitors had not managed to exploit the wind and slope conditions in the first half so things did not look good for them from now on.
The second half started with some lost possession by the visitors and the home pack swarmed down the slope with Jesse Muir barging over in the left hand corner (38-0). Muir was also noted with a couple of important tackles. From similar situations Andy Noble then secured his position at the top of the club try scoring table with two tries in a few minutes as he had too much power and skill for visitors when exploiting broken play opportunities (52-0). However Noble and the visitors’ replacement prop were now given ten minutes rest for some handbags. Tonkin was continuing to make useful yards ball in hand and was securing decent middle lineout ball.
Fraser Goatcher, Damien Pestell and Jo Rushton made useful contributions as replacements with Pestell collecting the next try (59-0). Heathfield skipper Ollie Smith then charged through some tiring defence for the next try (66-0). This was much appreciated by the whole team who have responded to his leadership throughout the season.
Dunstonians were having a bad day at the office but they had always shown willing and some quick hands now gave their left wing a sniff of a chance which he duly took very well to at least give his side a consolation on the scoreboard (66-7)
Goatcher then illustrated his strengths as he charged over in the bottom corner (73-7). The scoring was completed by a penalty try as the Heathfield scrummage again asserted its dominance (80-7).
The fair crowd included many former players who had enjoyed working with Dave Jones and who provided testament to the respect with which he is regarded within the club. In eleven years his team have won over 60% of their games and Heathfield have moved from Sussex 1 obscurity to the heights of London 2.
This was probably the last game for Heathfield for Muir and Hellier. Along with their compatriot Noble they have made a hugely positive impression with a 100% record of playing in every game that sets an example to others along with being genuinely decent people. They will be missed – not least by the club steward who may have to reduce the order for Guinness next year.
Heathfield’s coach next year Dave Cook takes over a team who have concluded this season strongly and with a squad of players with a range of ages suggesting that continuity can be secured. This is illustrated by Cook’s current management of Heathfield’s U17 team who next Sunday (19 April Henley RFC) play the winners of the SW region in the national semi-final of RFU Plate Competition.