Park House near Bromley were Heath’s opponents in London South East 3 at the weekend with the first Saturday in November heralding the arrival of the first proper spell of winter weather on a bitterly cold, grey afternoon. Heath’s season has been characterised by the side performing to their potential in only one of the two halves of each match and this game was to prove no exception.
This week saw Heath give a muted display in the first half and, after good early pressure when they should have put points on the board following a number of scrums in the Park House 22, they were unable to exert consistent control on the game. Park House were strong at the breakdown and hard and clever around the fringes, meaning the usually dominant Heath pack could not get consistent yards around the corner from which to mount an attack. Couple that with the team almost appearing too eager and trying to force off loads and pop passes in the early stages of the game, rather than going to ground and playing basic rugby to create pressure, meant that Park House were able to settle into the game without conceding.
Things got worse for Heath when on 18 minutes they lost player/coach Peter Kerins for a precautionary head injury assessment followed by Park House breaking tackles on one of their only ventures into opposition territory and scoring under the posts. 7 - 0 to the home side.
Heath continued to try and play their brand of rugby but with a misfiring lineout and some wrong decision making under pressure they still couldn’t get a grip on the game despite the dominance of the pack in the tight. On 30 minutes however this scrum dominance pulled Heath back into the game. A scrum to Park House on their own 5 metre line was shoved backwards by an eight man drive, and when the ball squirted out into the home side’s in goal area, the Heath blind side Sam Drage was quickest to pounce to pull the score back to 7 -5.
Heath’s cause wasn’t helped by an unusual interpretation of the contact area by the referee which was only exacerbated by the Heath runners getting isolated in attack and conceding pressure relieving penalties. But Heath had no excuses and had to adapt to the referee in the same way we see Premiership matches unfold week in week out. The score remained the same until the break with Heath turning round to gain the benefit of the wind.
The second half was a different story with Heath showing their class and fitness in a clinical dissection of the opposition. Good early possession and ball retention from the forwards set a platform in the Park House 22 and when the ball was fed to the supporting Robbie Fotheringham he burst through a couple of tackles to score. Kerins, who had returned to the fray, converted for 7-12 to Heath after only 5 minutes of the second half.
More good territory and pressure led to a Park House defensive scrum 10 metres out from their line. Another drive from the Heath eight meant slow ball to the home kicker, who was brilliantly charged down by the ever alert scrum half Brett Menefy, who collected the loose ball and scored out wide making the score 7-17 and giving Heath some breathing space.
Park House tried to reassert themselves and Heath did well to defend a line out kicked to the corner. However in the next passage of play on 20 minutes a cleverly weighted chip kick over the home three-quarters from Kerins was claimed on the bounce by Fotheringham who sliced through the defence at pace to score his second try of the afternoon and secure the bonus point. Kerins knocked the extras through for 7-24 and going into the last quarter it looked like job done.
But the Bonfire Night party wasn’t over and the fireworks continued this time with rampaging open side Josh Salisbury ripping the ball from the opposition just inside their half and then out sprinting the defence to score under the posts. Jack Best, on for Kerins, put the ball through the sticks for 7-31.
With 2 minutes of the match to go the Heath boys got their happy ending with the try of the match and maybe the season so far. Breaking from their own 22 the ball passed through most of the backs with inside passes, offloads at pace and perfect support lines scything through the Park House defence, with the try finally being scored by front row Joss Townsend after a lung- busting effort to get on the shoulder of the runner. Best converted for two more points and the final whistle blew a short while later for a 38-7 win.
From 7- 0 down at the first quarter to then run in 6 unanswered tries was a good effort from Heath away from home with the only real low note being an injury to the influential Jack Bull. The toughest defensive record in the league gives Heath the platform to win these matches, but once again the coaches will have plenty to work on at training in order to put an eighty minute performance together. Results elsewhere meant Heath remain in third place despite their bonus point win.
No game next week other than England v South Africa on the Big Screen in the clubhouse - all welcome - with the next match being a home fixture against old foes Lewes in two weeks’ time.
Heath RAMs continued their impressive run of form with a gutsy 12-5 win at Whitemans Green against Plumpton RFC in what was a proper old fashioned game of rugby with each side giving no quarter allowing the RAMs to move up the table.
Heath 1st XV squad: Joss Townsend, Wilf Bridges, Jack Bull (Paddy Sandys-Renton), Tom Burns, Dan Shotton, Josh Salisbury, Sam Drage, Nick Main (Capt.), Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins ( Jack Best ), Roscoe Atkins, Robbie Fotheringham, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Jo Ratcliff - Unused Sub - Huw Jenkins
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