After last week's one point defeat in the Horsham derby fixture, Heath were looking to get a first league win under their belts in another Sussex derby at home to old rivals Heathfield & Waldron.
Conditions were perfect for running rugby and a large, vocal crowd were gathered at Whitemans Green for the first home game of the season.
Whether it was trying to make up for last week’s narrow defeat or simply playing on familiar territory, Heath were quickly out of the traps and tore into Heathfield from the whistle, pinning the visitors down in their 22. A cleverly weighted kick from outside half Peter Kerins was chased through by centre Wilf Bridges to beat the defenders for the touch down after only 4 minutes. Kerins put the ball through the posts for 7-0.
On 18 minutes Heath won a penalty just inside the Heathfield half which was then moved on 10 metres for backchat to the referee. Kerins kicked deep into opposition territory and, from the ensuing line out, Heath set and drove a maul over the Heathfield line for hooker Alex Wolfe to score. Kicking boots were back for Kerins and he nailed the conversion for 14-0 .
From the restart a break down the right wing from Bobby Conroy-Smith made territory until he was taken out late after kicking the ball over the top. Yellow card for the Heathfield player and another penalty to Heath which was once again drilled into the corner by Kerins. Another line out and another well executed catch and drive from the Heath pack for a second try for hooker Wolfe for a 19-0 lead to Heath.
Heath were well and truly in the driving seat at this point and a break through the middle of the park from scrum half Brett Menefy took play down to the Heathfield 22. As the visitors tried to work their way out of defence the ball was stripped at the breakdown by Bridges who then set off on towards the try line before cheekily chipping over the defence and catching the ball on the bounce to score his second try of the day. Kerins added the two points for a 26-0 lead with the four try bonus point secured.
At this stage it could have turned into a rout but a combination of Heathfield getting over their shell shock and Heath becoming complacent meant the momentum of the game changed completely. Heathfield started applying the pressure through their forwards and Heath started to concede regular penalties. On 35 minutes the referee had seen enough and Heath had a player sent to the bin. The penalty was kicked to the corner where Heathfield gave Heath some of their own medicine and drove over to pull a try back. The score remained 26-7 at the half time break .
Buoyed by their try and with Heath still with only 14 men, Heathfield had a period of dominance early in the second half where they kept the ball in Heath territory and played to their strengths. On the other hand Heath were trying to play too much rugby in their own half and paid the price with two more tries from the Heathfield forwards after further Heath infringements had given the initiative to the opposition, pegging the scoreboard back to 26 -19 .
The home side realised they were in a scrap and knuckled down to gain some territory. The ball was worked up to the Heathfield 22 and after a drive from the pack back row Josh Salisbury crashed his way through the defence for a try to take the score to 31 -19.
Heathfield tried to come again but were killed off by a counter attack from Conroy-Smith who then kicked long behind the Heathfield defence. The kick was chased down by the centre pairing of Jack Lucas and Wilf Bridges which pressurised the Heathfield defence enough to allow Conroy -Smith to win the foot race to touch down for the try. Kerins made the conversion for 38 -19.
Heathfield came back again and after another Heath yellow card worked the ball wide from a scrum for their winger to cross over for 38 -24 and a valuable four try bonus point of their own.
The scores remained the same to the final whistle as a relieved Heath took the win and bonus point to kickstart their campaign. Heath will need to learn from this game as at 26-0 up after half an hour they had the game in the bag and through better game management could and should have looked to close it out by playing their rugby in the right areas of the pitch. A worrying penalty count and the two yellow cards will be something that coach Matt Hawkes will want to stamp out for the matches that lie ahead as these were major contributors to the usually tight Heath defence leaking four tries.
The win moves Heath into the top half of the table as the squad (pictured in their new kit sponsored by Fairfax) prepare to face a long trip to Deal & Bettshanger in Kent next weekend.
The RAMS league match was cancelled as the opposition were unable to get a team together but they were able to travel away for a friendly with Hove which they won convincingly.
Heath 1st XV squad : Jack Bull , Alex Wolfe, Euan Greaves-Smith, Gareth Fergusson (Charlie Milner), Steve Doku, Nick Main, Josh Salisbury (Wilf Bridges), Ed Bowden, Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins (capt), Roscoe Atkins, Jack Lucas, Wilf Bridges (Max Drage), Bobby Conroy-Smith, Henry Warwick