Heathfield 21 Aylesford 37
Aylesford emerged as deserving winners in this London SE3 league game between two teams who were both relegated at the end of last season. Aylesford have retained most of their pack and with the addition of a couple of Charlton Park refugees this large mature unit proved to be the decisive force on the day.
In warm sunny conditions and in front of a very decent crowd, many of whom had just enjoyed watching Heathfield’s Ladies team in an excellent winning performance, the home side played up the slight slope initially. Full back Lucas Cuming soon opened the scoring with a long penalty but Aylesford almost immediately replied with a try under the posts from a set move off a scrum (3-7).
Neither side was able to achieve dominance at this stage but Heathfield were able to keep the score board ticking with two more penalties by Cuming who had a busy and generally effective day in all phases. However the visitors were starting to use their forward power, collecting one penalty goal (9-10). Heathfield were now pressured into the bottom corner with a sequence of penalties. Eventually this paid off as Heathfield skipper Gus Taylor was binned for a no-arm tackle and Aylesford muscled their way over (9-17).
At half time the game appeared to be in the balance. Neither side had a significant edge in set pieces and the home side would have the slight slope in their favour. Nick Cook was making a major impact in most phases and Harry Hodierne was afterwards complimented for his first senior appearance. Tom Tingley was having a good contest with his wily old opposite number and achieved several important turnovers. However the game was effectively decided in the first few minutes of the second half as the visitors used powerful runners with good off-loading to collect three tries and stretch the lead out to 9-34.
Aylesford also had one piece of good fortune when one of their players lifted Marcellus Edmonds above the horizontal and dropped him on what most thought was the back of his head. However the only person who matters in this situation decided that he had landed on his back so the card was only yellow.
With twenty five minutes remaining Heathfield now made full use of the bench with Joe McIntyre making a most pleasing first appearance at this level at fly half showing skill and judgement under considerable pressure.
Heathfield pulled one try back after a period of pressure and skipper Gus Taylor worked his way over as just reward for his all-round efforts. Aylesford did reply with another penalty but Heathfield had the last word as Tom Cornwall ran a lovely line near the break down to score almost untouched by the defence.
Heathfield kept going to the end but were denied even a losing bonus point. This was always going to be a difficult start to the league season but Head Coach Dave Cook was able to identify plenty of positives with the younger newcomers McIntyre, Hodierne and George Skinner getting special mention.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit Gillingham Anchorians (21 September 3.00pm) who started their league campaign with a decent home win so life is not going to be easy!