Aylesford hand wooden spoon to Heathfield
By Philip Bell
Young home backs make the difference
Aylesford 32 Heathfield 7
Aylesford were the clear winners by five tries to one of this game that determines who finishes bottom in London SE 2 this season. Both teams are already relegated and the game lacked some of the tension of meaningful leagues games. Heathfield had an unfamiliar lineup following this season’s pattern of injuries and availability issues, which was further compounded today by travel difficulties meaning that two players arrived only just before kickoff. Aylesford included several Colts who made a strong impression – Heathfield would like to have done the same but their Colts have a Sussex Cup semi-final this weekend.
On a warm sunny day the home team had first use of the slight breeze. They opened the scoring after ten minutes with a simple try from good lines of running and support, aided by a missed tackle in midfield. Heathfield did have one foray into home territory as good work between Munch May and Fraser Goatcher took them into the right hand corner but were just contained.
Aylesford were looking dangerous out wide and they often used the grubber kick through to good effect. Their second try came after half an hour in a similar manner to the first try. The half ended with an Aylesford penalty for a scoreline of 17-0.
Lucas Cuming was catching the eye for Heathfield with some mazy running and brave tackling while Dan Bird was noticed with some committed work in the loose. Aylesford had a slight edge in the scrummage so skipper Gus Taylor had a difficult day securing the ball at the base of the scrum. Taylor also had an excellent day in the lineout where, in the absence of the regular lineout operators, he generally provided good possession. Veteran James Robinson, standing in at fly half, was showing some good handling and footwork with one outrageous sidestep although his kicking out of hand was a mixed bag.
A few minutes into the second half Heathfield made good progress down the left flank through Taylor and May before the ball reached Alex Langdon who then bamboozled multiple defenders for a fine solo try from about the ten metre line, duly converted by Cuming. Heathfield now had some momentum and another score would have made this a very interesting game. However Aylesford scored next as loose ball at the base of a Heathfield scrum was snatched up and the grateful recipient had the pace to reach the try line.
Heathfield were looking good for another score as the ball was moved wide to Langdon again with just a couple of forwards to beat but the referee had to stop play as a player had been injured and was in the line of play. Heathfield handicapped themselves several times at this point as kicks failed to find touch and the young home backs ran the ball back with enthusiasm.
Aylesford scored two more tries as they dominated the last few minutes. First they dived over from an attacking lineout and then successive penalties gave them good position in the visitors’ 22 and good hands gave their right winger an easy finish. A home second row was binned late on but Heathfield were unable to take advantage of the extra man.
Next year Heathfield and Aylesford will face each other again back in London SE3. It looks likely that Heathfield will be one of only three Sussex clubs in that league, along with Pulborough and Uckfield, so we will be seeing lots of Kent next season. The current league season ends next week when Heathfield entertain Dover (6 April 3.00).