Heathfield 42 Dover 45
You don’t often score 42 points and lose. Nonetheless Heathfield lost to Dover in this entertaining last SE2 league match of the 2018/19 season with the last play of the game as the visitors scored a try under the home balcony to snatch what at times had seemed a very unlikely victory. This was a game that decided nothing – Dover are safe in mid-table and Heathfield are definitely relegated. Therefore the contest lacked some of the intensity of earlier league games but it was well contested for all that. There was also a healthy respect between the teams which had been sadly lacking in one recent match.
Unusually the wind was from the east so it was blowing up the slight slope and thus behind Heathfield in the first half. Heathfield opened the scoring with as good a try as any this year. Good hands involving Tom Tingley, Fraser Goatcher, Henry Ross and Max Redman ended with Ross galloping over, well converted by Lucas Cuming. Another try followed at the ten minute point when Heathfield took good position in the top corner and an efficient lineout allowed Goatcher to plunge (?) over in the corner beneath the appreciative balcony.
Dover soon showed some of their quality when good possession in the home half was well exploited with good lines of running in open play for an easy run-in under the posts.
Continued Heathfield pressure was rewarded by two Cuming penalties and then the mounting penalty count saw a visiting second rower binned. Heathfied were then just denied from a lineout when the ball was adjudged help up but from the following scrum Sam Goatcher timed his run beautifully to dive over.
The bonus point try came when Munch May scragged the Dover scrum half at the base of a scrum and then found Ross who joyfully strolled over for his second try on the day. The score at this point was 32-7 to Heathfield and you should not lose games from that sort of position.
However Dover have some classy players and they now scored a fine try with a move starting in their own 22 with their impressive right winger finally touching down.
With nothing to play for except their pride Dover showed impressive skill and character in the third quarter as they scored a sequence of tries to overhaul the home side and with twenty minutes remaining the visitors were in the lead by 32-35. Key Dover players in this period were their number 8 and their fly half – although the latter, who is also skipper, seemed to have some difficulty in communicating with the referee as he was repeatedly marched back.
After multiple phases Dan Jones, who had moved to scrum half from the wing when May retired hurt, worked his way over for an important score. However Dover immediately replied as they collected another seven pointer from a quick tap under the home posts. There was some home disquiet about this as F Goatcher was being treated by physios at this point and it is arguable that play should not have restarted.
Nonetheless Heathfield then collected a penalty to take the lead (although some said it only tied the score but it was a confusing day for counting). Dover managed the last word with a good try from distance from a turnover and thus secured the result by seven tries to five.
Heathfield skipper Gus Taylor had yet another fine game both in defence and ball in hand: Matt Ryan had an especially good first half and Cuming continues to look a classy runner who also had a good day place kicking that nearly secured a result. There are photos available of the team in frocks after the game but viewer discretion is advised. In particular the captain was wearing a drab number that did little for his figure.
Although finishing with a loss Heathfield are looking forward to life in London SE3 in a positive frame of mind. As outgoing President Mike Macleod pointed out in his speech at lunch Heathfield are getting an awful lot right. While he was speaking, a recent Heathfield junior section member Piers O’Conor was playing for Bristol Bears in the Premiership – elsewhere Chester Duff has just been selected for the English Universities squad, Theo Bevacqua played last week for Wales U20, the Colts are in the Sussex Mike Richardson Colts Cup Final and the Heathfield Ladies side have just won their RFU league for the second successive year.