Heathfield 5 Gravesend 29
As the league table suggested Gravesend were clear winners of this SE2 league match as the home side were left ruing a missed opportunity in a game that had looked to be there for the taking in the second half but were thwarted by their own poor execution and discipline.
Initially Heathfield played up the slope and into the variable and gusty breeze. However from the first scrum Gravesend attacked the short side and one missed tackle allowed a clinically taken try in the left hand corner with two minutes on the clock.
The visitors continued to look threatening and a few minutes later extended their lead with a simple penalty, with the referee already warning Heathfield about the number of penalties. However gradually the home side started to come into the game with decent handling and appropriate kicking. Dan Jones, a late replacement at scrum half for a feverish Munch May, was making some useful box kicks and mostly got his back line moving.
In the second quarter more of the play was in the visitors’ half albeit without threatening a score. Then on the half hour Gravesend again took good position in the home half from a penalty and from the lineout they eventually moved the ball into mid field where their outside centre ran a lovely line in a set move to stroll under the posts and give the visitors a fifteen point lead.
Nick Cook and Shamus Smith now replaced James Woodroofe and Harry Reilly. From a solid scrum Jones now made a fine solo break before being stopped in the visitors’ 22 and the Gravesend number 8 was binned for malpractice at the ensuing breakdown. By now the penalty count was much against the visitors. Heathfield correctly sensed an opportunity and elected to scrum a couple of penalties allowing Oli Robertshaw to collect a pushover try.
Gravesend charged back from the restart and it took some decent tackling, especially by Alex Langdon, to contain them.
With the slope and breeze to assist in the second half, Heathfield will have felt that this was a very winnable game. Gravesend were sounding worried. Scrum and lineout were generally even but Gravesend were more effective at the breakdown with several key turnovers when Heathfield failed to protect the ball.
Heathfield were being led from the front as usual by Gus Taylor with strong work in all phases, with noticeable support from Fraser Goatcher with some strong rumbles and who looks to be coming back to match fitness.
Heathfield duly started to press into the visitors’ half and achieved a promising position in the left hand corner. However an attacking lineout was turned over and Gravesend confidence started to build. Robertshaw was now replaced to avoid any unfortunate exchanges with the referee.
Nonetheless Heathfield were looking threatening but a couple of promising attacks failed through poor execution. A score at this point would have made this a close contest but Gravesend are an efficient defensive team.
On two occasions Heathfield were marched back 10 metres for querying decisions and this reflected the poor home discipline in this period. Jones was binned for blatant offside spoiling good visitors’ ball and shortly afterwards Cook joined him in the bin for obstruction. Heathfield are having a poor year with just three wins to date: the clear prospect of a win probably made some players over-excited and the team discipline suffered.
With a two man advantage Gravesend inevitably took advantage with two tries first with good hands through several phases and then a penalty try from an attacking lineout in the left hand corner.
There was just time for another yellow, this time for Lucas Cuming for not releasing in the tackle and for Tom Tingly to make a characteristic but unsuccessful run.
Gravesend are an efficient side and did what was necessary but Heathfield will look at this game as a missed opportunity primarily from their poor discipline.
After a w eek off Heathfield next entertain Deal & Betteshanger with whom they have often had close encounters in recent years (23 March 3.00).