Heathfield 77 Old Williamsonians 5
Heathfield were convincing winners of this SE3 League game by eleven tries to one in this entertaining contest between two teams who had both lost both their first two league games. Last week the game included 12 tries shared equally between the teams: this week also saw 12 tries but this time it was much more one-sided.
Heathfield played up the slight slope and into the gusty and variable breeze initially but had the better of early exchanges with Tom Tingley going close following a turnover. Then more pressure into the visitors’ half saw Tom Cornwell running yet another lovely line near the breakdown to collect his first try on the day (5-0). Old Willies immediately showed that they were up for a challenge when they moved good scrum possession wide left to claim a decent try in the left hand corner. However that was the end of the good news for the visitors as most of the rest of the game was played in their half.
As an indication of things to come Lucas Cuming, Charlie Butler and Jack Morgan were linking well together following more good work by Cornwell. However the home coaches felt that several scoring opportunities were botched in this period through inaccuracy.
Morgan did knock over a tricky penalty into the breeze to give the home side the lead that was never challenged thereafter. It took until about the half hour for another score when more good work by Cornwell linking with skipper Gus Taylor provided good ball to George Skinner on the right wing who finished well.
A few minutes later Nick Cook made a huge run from his own 22 and although stopped just short Taylor duly worked his way over (20-5). Cook now retired to clear his throat which allowed Owen Hayhurst to make his first competitive appearance in Heathfield colours and he was afterwards widely praised for an effective performance with unspectacular but important hard graft at close quarters.
Joe McIntyre had to retire at this point with a dead leg after an impressive and entertaining first start at fly half at this level. Cuming moved up to fly half and Toby Simpson came off the bench to full back.
At half time Heathfield will have been optimistic of a result with the slope and wind in their favour to come although having lost after taking a 17 point lead last week there was no complacency. The scrummage was generally even with Heathfield probably having a slight edge while the wind made lineouts messy with the home side clearly having the better of that phase overall. The scrummage is clearly benefitting from having the same front row start all three games to date and they are becoming a significant unit. Lars Thorkildsen was making his first appearance for this season and was a quietly effective force in the second row.
As a sign that Heathfield were still concerned about the final outcome they chose to take the points from an early penalty in the second half when many expected a kick to the corner. However tries soon started to come. Cook was the next scorer as a well-judged Morgan kick into the left hand corner was effectively followed up and Cook was the beneficiary when the ball was recovered. Then good scrum ball was moved wide and Simpson ran from deep on an excellent line to touch down under the posts (35-5). Morgan went on convert eight tries as well as two penalties.
Jack Ruddock now replaced Rees Webb and for the second week running the 18 year old put in a fine shift against much older and more experienced opposition.
Although 30 points behind Old Willies were not giving up with their hooker being their best player on the day with some carries in heavy traffic. They very nearly collected another score when their outside centre made try-saving interception on his own 22 and looked certain to score at the other end. However young legs in the shape of Skinner just hauled him down a few yards out. This was followed by a period of Old Willies pressure with Simpson being correctly binned for deliberate knock on. However the home defence was able to prevent any damage on the scoreboard and indeed the last quarter saw a succession of home tries.
First a lineout was turned over by Cook and good hands including a significant carry by Hayhurst allowed Tingley to charge over from some way out. Then Skinner made another effective run down the right flank and when the cavalry arrived Fraser Goatcher was able to plunge (dive/fall/trundle) over from short range. Old Willies carelessly sent the restart straight to Cook and he duly ran back for a fine solo score. Cook also made the turnover which led to next score which came from another good run by Skinner, finished by Cornwell. Cornwell also collected his third soon after as a worthy reward for his efforts in this game: he is playing with great confidence and determination this year and was a much applauded man of the match.
The scoring ended with another try from another top performer on the day as a strong Tingley run was carried on by Munch May and Cook arrived to claim the points and his third on the day. May was afterwards especially commended for his all-round contributions and game management.
This result and performance was not a surprise to the coaching team who had been delighted with the attendance and performance in training during the week. Heathfield 2s, who had also been strong participants in training this week, returned home with a 58-15 win over old rivals Uckfield 2s with plenty of people putting their hands up for first team consideration.
Afterwards the coaches were delighted that hard work on the training paddock had paid off. The team is much more settled in selection terms than in the last couple of years but this will soon be tested as old friends and rivals Folkestone come visiting next Saturday (5 Oct 3.00). Folkestone today put 70 points on Gillingham Anchorians who just beat Heathfield last week so they will travel with justified optimism.