Heath visited a confident Pulborough side who were coming off the back of a comprehensive win over Lewes in their opening game of the season for an early West Sussex derby.
Heath were fielding a much changed back division with a number of players unavailable and started the game playing downhill with the wind behind them. Despite good early Heath pressure when they were camped in the home side’s 22 they couldn’t get the breakthrough they needed or their aggressive play deserved and the game ebbed and flowed with Heath’s forwards looking to have the upper hand and the Pulborough backs looking threatening on the break.
The match stayed at 0-0 until around 25 minutes when Pulborough were penalised at the breakdown allowing Peter Kerins to knock the ball through the posts for a 3-0 lead. Heath were looking reasonably comfortable until losing one of the backs to a yellow card for a shoulder charge which changed the momentum of the game. A kick ahead and gather from Pulborough allowed their right wing some space to benefit from the numerical advantage and score the game’s first try which was converted for a 7-3 lead, a scoreline that stayed until half time whistle.
Playing up hill into quite a strong wind for the second 40 minutes, Heath were facing a tough challenge and within five minutes of the restart Pulborough had sent another long kick down the field which was cleared by Heath for a 5 metre scrum wide on their left. Although Heath’s pack had the shove on, a number 8 pick up and inside pass down the blindside led to another score for the home side that with the conversion took them into to a healthy 14-3 lead.
Heath heads didn’t drop and the forwards took the game to Pulborough with a show of strong driving through a number of phases to get field position before releasing the backs. With 15 minutes to go Heath were camped on the Pulborough line applying maximum pressure to the home defence. That pressure told as some desperate defence from Pulborough led to a sin bin for their centre for entering the ruck from the side and Heath looked to turn the screw by repeatedly opting for the scrum. Four or five times Pulborogh were driven back over their own try line but either conceded the penalty or touched down for another scrum to the visitors. Eventually skipper and number 8 Nick Main was able to crash over for the try and when Kerins added the conversion it was game on at 14-10 with just over 5 minutes to play.
Pulborough, who lost another man to the bin, were able to kick the ball down field and managed to run the clock down with a long range kick at goal which was missed allowing the Heath pack one last attempt to drive their way up the length of the pitch in an attempt to get the decisive score. Phase after phase and penalties conceded by the opposition took them into the Pulborough half but time ran out and when the ball went into touch the referee blew the final whistle, marking a gallant effort from Heath who lost out 14-10.
This was a really good effort from Heath in the circumstances and once again their second half fitness was impressive. Plenty still to work on for coaches Kerins and Jenkins but a losing bonus point means that they are reasonably placed in the league as they prepare for the arrival of Eastbourne next week in what is expected to be another tight Sussex derby.
Heath 1st XV squad: Euan Greaves-Smith, Will Purdey (Jack Bull), Joss Townsend, Nick Miller, Dan Shotton (Tom Burns), Harry Preston Bell, Josh Salisbury, Nick Main (Capt.), Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins, Claude Cox, Wilf Bridges, Marc Cashman, Tim Salisbury (Ali Fraser), Robbie Fotheringham.
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