U16s passionate display at Cranbrook
By Matt kuzemko
U16s edge great game against the Cranes
Cranbrook RFC U16 v Heathfield & Waldron RFC U16 v – 31st March 2019
Result: 17-19 (win for Heathfield)
And so it came to pass. On the same spot of muddied Cranbrook grass that this crop of young rugby players (and coaches and parental supporters) started their first match together as small, gentle, scurrying Under 6s at a tournament here over a decade together, now as Heathfield’s Under 16 side of 2018-19 they completed their time together as a squad of somewhat larger, hairier and very promising players before moving onto Colts rugby next season.
A grey morning met them at Cranbrook, with a biting wind to add, against a strong home outfit who were preparing for a Kent cup final match the following weekend. Heathfield kicked off and, in the plays that followed, drove close to the line only to lose a crucial ruck and see the ball cleared. Although the chance was initially missed, the opportunity to score was not: back the visitors came through fly-half Angus Paterson who released Hamish Mcalister who went close in the right corner. A subsequent penalty, taken quickly, was worked left, allowing number eight Dan Newman to stretch over. Tom Reilly neatly converted the try to a full goal to leave the score 0-7 after an impressive opening seven minutes.
Cranbrook now began to find their stride. Several powerful rumbles down the middle took them down the pitch and close to scoring before the Heathfield forwards, with Jack Flint and Oli Hunt dynamic in the loose as usual, winning a decisive ruck allowing Reilly to pump a calm clearing kick to close to half-way. The home side maintained this newly-found momentum though, and with a tidy move in the Heathfield 22 created space for their centre to glide through for a try, thereafter converted to level the scores.
The Cranes now began to press hard. A high, testing kick looked to be swirling out of full-back Cameron Reader’s reach, before a superb take over his shoulder allowed him to turn and set off a mazy run down the right that outstripped several would-be tacklers before popping a pass inside to the supporting Paterson who, in turn, gave Oli Tooke the chance of a typical bullocking charge. Finn Scott-Taggart, a jinking threat all game at scrum-half, released a combination of backs and forwards from the subsequent ruck, Joe Lewis drew his man and passed neatly, and McAlister reached over to score. A superb team try, and 5-12 to Heathfield after 22 minutes.
One of the strengths of the Heathfield U16s has been their depth of their squad. Whilst the replacements may not necessarily have the size and power of the starting players, they very much have the same collective spirit. A host of substitutions were now made to give all a game, and shortly afterwards, a well-run ruck in midfield gave skipper Jack Langridge the chance to set off on a direct, barging route to the try-line for Heathfield’s third. Kuzemko’s fine conversion made it 5-19.
Whilst George Hayter and Brad Scott continued to make powerful bursts in the loose, Ellis Wilson and Freddie McKeough won much ball in the line-out and Jon Beaton offered a real threat when the ball got to his wing. Cranbrook though had some very talented players in their own ranks and, when they created chances on the fast, well-tended pitch, they looked very dangerous themselves. On the stroke of half-time, following a concerted spell of pressure, they drove over to close the gap to 10-19.
As the second half kicked off, Scott-Taggart swirled his way out of a tackle and launched a counter-attack that almost brought Heathfield their fourth try. Back came Cranbrook: Harry Rogers, now on at centre, made a couple of sound tackles in midfield but it was only a fine one-on-one last-ditch tackle by Paterson, who had a splendid running and tackling game at number 10, that stopped a Cranbrook runner setting sail for the distant posts. With the game ebbing and flowing like the tide, Cranbrook managed a third try of their own, converted to narrow the deficit to just two points - the ball was moved to the Cranes’ right, Kieran Dudgeon made a fine try-saving tackle for Heathfield, but the follow-up set of plays gave Cranbrook the chance to plunge over. That proved, however, to be the last points notched in a close and passionate encounter. The result, and their last game of junior rugby, capped a fine season for Heathfield.
Team: 1. Jack Langridge (c); 2. George Hayter; 3. Bradley Scott; 4. Joe Lewis; 5. Jack Flint; 6. -; 7. Oli Hunt; 8. Dan Newman; 9. Finn Scott-Taggart; 10. Angus Paterson; 11. Hamish Mcalister; 12. Tom Reilly; 13. Oli Tooke; 14. Jon Beaton; 15. Cameron Reader
Replacements: 16. Freddie McKeough (25) for Joe Lewis; 17. Freddie Kuzemko (25) for Tom Reilly; 18. Harry Rogers (25) for Oli Tooke; 19. Kieran Dudgeon (25) for Jon Beaton; 20. Ellis Wilson (25) for Jack Flint
7 mins: Heathfield – try (Dan Newman) and conversion (Tom Reilly (0-7)
15 mins: Cranbrook - try (5-7)
22 mins: Heathfield – try (Hamish Mcalister) (5-12)
28 mins: Heathfield – try (Jack Langridge) and conversion (Freddie Kuzemko) (5-19)
35 mins: Cranbrook – try (10-19)
47 mins: Cranbrook – try and conversion (17-19)
Full-time score: 17-19