With torrential rain throughout the week leaving standing water on the pitches at Whitemans Green, it wasn’t until 10am on Saturday morning that Heath’s final home game of 2015 was given the go-ahead much to the relief of the Club’s officials who were hosting the eagerly anticipated HHRFC Christmas lunch.
Around 80 supporters including representatives from opponents Seaford RFC enjoyed a full Christmas dinner in the Clubhouse before braving the strongly gusting wind to watch the game. The wind, which lifted and demolished the temporary marquee on the clubhouse deck during lunch, was to be a big factor in the game and, whilst it did help dry out the pitches, neither side were able to really get to grips with it during play.
At kick off the crowd were met with the unusual sight of the home team playing in white after the referee decided that the respective teams kit looked too similar - Heath ended up having to reverse their Vines of Gatwick BMW shirts. Seaford, who had been going well in the league and were sitting in 4th place, were quickly out of the blocks with the wind behind them and after gaining territory in the Heath half were able to force an infringement on the 22 which resulted in a penalty which they stuck through the uprights to take an early three point lead. The score stung Heath into action and after strong work from the forwards and some powerful drives down the left, the returning George Harris playing in the back row crashed through defenders to score a try to put the home side in front by 5-3.
The blustery conditions did not make the rugby easy or for a great spectacle with some kicks making no ground and actually travelling back past the kicker, much to the amusement of the lively festive crowd, and whilst Heath had the upper hand with some decisive work at the breakdown from the forwards, they couldn’t get back on the scoreboard until 25 minutes had gone and with an element of fortune. Seaford were attacking just inside the Heath half when the line speed of skipper Casey Calder caught out the opposition three quarters as he stormed through with an interception and made it all the way to line for a converted try and a 12 -3 lead. After having been within two points of the home side for much of the first half, conceding a soft score knocked some of the belief out of Seaford and Heath were quick to take advantage.
Quick ball moved wide right allowed Heath winger Roscoe Atkins to scoot around the covering defence for a score under the posts which Peter Kerins converted for 19 -3. The all-important bonus point try came a short while later with the busy Harris claiming his second of the day which, with Kerins adding the extras, ticked the score along to 26-3 with a couple of minutes remaining in the half. Shortly before the break a fifth try allowed the home side to round the half off in style with outside centre Jack Lucas straightening the line and powering through from 20 yards out. Kerins hit the extras for Heath to take a 33-3 advantage into the break.
Although playing up hill on the testing ground in the second half Heath, with the wind behind them, were looking to rattle up a few more scores to entertain the vocal crowd of nearly 200 who had come to cheer on the league leaders. It was a great credit to the Seaford team that they didn’t allow that to happen and their dogged defence into a howling gale made life very difficult for Heath. After bringing on the bench Heath eventually did manage two further scores with tries for scrum half Tim Hartley and a second for Calder. A long kick from Heath which stayed in play in the corner a couple of yards out from the Seaford try line was well chased by the home pack who forced the penalty allowing the quick thinking Hartley to tap and burrow over the line for 38 -3. Calder rounded things off with an injection of pace through the midfield beating the defence and scoring under the posts which Kerins converted for a final score of 45-3.
This was a solid effort from Heath in conditions not suited to their brand of rugby but with a bonus point win secured it was job done and the result keeps them a point clear of rivals Lewes in the league. There were several very good performances on the day all challenging for the Vines Of Gatwick BMW Man of the Match award which entitled the winner to the fantastic opportunity of a complimentary BMW for the weekend. Whilst special mention should go to second row Tom Burns and flanker George Harris who were both outstanding, it was number 8 Hugh Erritt who was awarded the prize for an awesome game in both attack and defence.
Next weekend sees Heath away at Horsham II for their final game of 2015. With both the 1st and 2nd XV squads successful at the weekend, and top of their respective leagues, the Club is in a good place as they see out the year.
Heath squad v Seaford
1.Karl Wicking; 2.Patrick Sandys-Renton (Wilf Bridges); 3.Duncan Liddell; 4.Tom Burns; 5.Nick Miller; 6.Dan Fergusson (Huw Jenkins); 7.George Harris; 8.Hugh Erritt; 9.Tim Hartley (Guy Sandys-Renton); 10.Peter Kerins; 11.Jamie Diggle; 12.Casey Calder (Captain); 13.Jack Lucas; 14.Roscoe Atkins; 15.Jack Best.
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