Having managed to remain unbeaten throughout the whole of last season’s league campaign Heath contrived to lose their first league game of the season against a resilient Crawley side.
A big crowd was at Whitemans Green for the opening fixture with the pre-match entertainment including a visit from the BMW Sweet Chariot, courtesy of Heath’s new main sponsor Vines of Gatwick BMW, a marching band and BBQ. In addition the clubhouse had hosted a lunch for the Under 13 age group who were receiving their club ties prior to their first season as juniors, having concluded their mini rugby careers. The lunch was sponsored by Great Walstead School and the ties were presented to the players by the Walstead games master Bobby Skelton together with the Heath 1st XV captain Nick Main. [photo attached]
The first half saw Heath playing downhill but into a strong wind against a physical and well organised Crawley side. Heath dominated the early exchanges and were unlucky not to go ahead when a penalty slid wide. Although having the upper hand, Heath were not showing their usual accuracy and silly mistakes meant they were unable to convert any pressure into points which proved costly as they were caught on the break after 14 minutes. The Heath midfield became isolated in an attack into the visitors’ half and were stripped of the ball allowing a quick counter up the left side of the field by the speedy Crawley winger to touch down for the first score with a well taken opportunist try. The extras were added and Heath were 7-0 down.
Although losing Heath continued to look as if they had plenty in hand and could assert themselves at any time. However a failure to execute their game plan coupled with some indiscipline on the park meant that they couldn’t gain any momentum in the Crawley 22 and after two injuries in the pack, including the captain, had forced early changes off the bench things went from bad to worse. Just after the half hour, when Heath didn’t manage to clear from a lineout and despite an obvious knock on by Crawley, the visitors were allowed to score a second converted try taking the score to 14-0. Heath backchat about the missed knock on led to a yellow card and shortly before the break a further yellow meant that Heath were playing with 13 men when the whistle sounded for half time.
Some stern words at half time seemed to galvanise Heath and with the wind behind them they appeared fired up to try and get something out of the game. Within a minute of the restart a good chase of a long kick put pressure on the Crawley defence allowing the forwards to steal possession and drive towards the posts. The ball was quickly spun wide allowing winger Jamie Diggle in for the try. Heath couldn’t add the conversion leaving the score at 5 -14.
Heath could sense the game was there for the taking and played the majority of the remainder of the game in Crawley’s half of the pitch but were unable to do the basics well enough to get the score. Time and again penalties led to kicks into the corner but the Heath lineout just wasn’t functioning in the conditions notwithstanding the efforts of Heath Man of the Match 2nd row Rob Hollingum. Even when they did have good possession Heath’s handling let them down and on at least three occasions try scoring opportunities went begging leading to more frustration within the team which was compounded by what appeared to be a serious knee injury to Robbie Fotheringham. With 10 minutes to go a series of penalties conceded by Crawley led to one of their forwards being sent to the bin and allowed Heath to capitalise with flanker Josh Salisbury driving over to score. Again Heath couldn’t add the two points meaning they still trailed 10 -14.
With the one man advantage, the wind still behind them and the roars of the crowd, Heath went in search of the decisive score - more opportunities came and went partly through a fine defensive display from Crawley but also down to the final pass not going to hand. Crawley held on and could have scored a further try themselves at the death but at the final whistle the score remained 14-10 to the visitors.
After last year’s successful league campaign and unbeaten preseason this result came as a bit of a wake up call to the squad who will be back to the training ground to tighten up their game. Better execution and the ability to nail their kicks means there is plenty to work on after this opening defeat.
In better news for the Heath seniors the 2nd team won their preseason friendly against Hove 3 by 62-12 with a Man of the Match performance from Alex Fisher helping to secure a good victory before their opening league game on 26th September.
There is no game next week due to the start of the Rugby World Cup although the Heath clubhouse will be packed out for England v Fiji on Friday evening. All members and guests welcome to watch on the big screen, Clubhouse open from 7pm.
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