Many thanks to Tim Dudgeon (Kieran's Dad) for producing the match report below.
Heathfield & Waldron RFC Colts v Warlingham RFC Colts – 29th September 2019
Result: 7-29 (win for Warlingham)
It was a wild day that greeted the two colts teams as they ran on to the pitch early on Sunday afternoon; the wind was blasting in from the Downs to the south-west, accompanied by grey, drenching, sheets of rain at sporadic intervals. The wise amongst a decent spectating crowd huddled in the shelter of the clubhouse eaves, close to at least the prospect of warmth and various restorative medicines from the bar if required. Playing to the conditions was clearly to be key in what was to follow and, in the end, it was probably the visitors from deepest Surrey that worked that out to greater effect over the course of 70 minutes.
Warlingham kicked off into the wind, now approaching a full gale, for the first half. Both sides looked to utilise their backs in the early stages; Jack Flint and James Stevens worked hard at early rucks winning good ball for Heathfield, and Cameron Reader jinked and dashed, but it was Warlingham who created the best chance before their powerful-looking centre knocked on with space created down the left flank.
Mistakes were almost inevitable given the conditions, and scrums also slipped and dipped when pressure came on. With Brad Scott making life difficult for his opposite number in the front row at one such set piece, Heathfield won a penalty and cleared downfield. A series of well-managed close-quarter drives ensued before Stevens deservedly drove over; Tom Reilly’s conversion converted this opening try to a goal and a score of 7-0 to the home side after 23 minutes.
Further chances came and went for both sides, whilst Heathfield also sustained a string of injuries with Sam Tiley leaving the pitch for some stitches to a wound which was streaming blood in an impressive manner. In the meantime, ‘the mighty Warl’ made their way back up the pitch towards the clubhouse end and, from a tap penalty, they surged over for an important but unconverted try. In the closing minutes of the match, Heathfield strove to re-take the lead – prop Oli Tooke ran hard in uncompromising fashion, but his side could not further capitalise on what advantage they had with the elements before the whistle went for the break.
With Heathfield rightly giving all their healthy squad the opportunity to get some match-time and adjust to new team-mates’ playing styles, changes in the fifteen on the pitch might also have had the almost inevitable effect of some disjointed play. The twenty minutes after half-time indeed saw Warlingham take a firm grip of the match, playing the conditions well and using their heavier forwards to rumble down the pitch, encouraged also by shrewd tactical kicking. A drive close to the line led to their second try, accompanied by a strong conversion from wide out on the left, which gave them the lead. Minutes later, a quick, low penalty kick like a woodcock breaking cover, took them into the corner – a position from which it was difficult for the home side to escape. They almost did so but for a fumble in midfield, allowing the Warlingham full-back to scoop up the loose ball and race home: 17-5. Oli Carr worked hard to soon win a penalty at a ruck not long after the subsequent re-start but, by this time, the Heathfield effort was beginning to whistle, splutter and blow rather like the traction engine that was now making its way in uncertain but smoky fashion up the lane behind the clubhouse. Missed tackles allowed Warlingham’s strong runners to score twice in quick succession and take the score to 29-7. However, to their credit, Heathfield did not fold and kept striving for a morale-boosting finale. Against the strong wind which even hurled one of the post protectors into an off-side position in the 22, they battled mightily. One or two ‘frank exchanges of robust views’ occurred between the two packs as the clock ticked down and there was the unusual sight of a tight-head prop apologising to his opposite number for making him slightly cross, but there was no further joy for the home side with the final result a win for the visitors by five tries to one.
Scorer: James Stevens – try, Tom Reilly - conversion