SLIDESHOW: Haywards Heath march on despite the mud
The postponement of the previous weeks game against East Grinstead meant that Heath had dropped off the top of the table as a result of old rivals Midhurst playing and winning.
It was important therefore that Heath, playing their first game for three weeks, picked up where they had left off and maintained their unbeaten run.
Conditions were entirely different from the season’s earlier home games and the Whitemans Green pitch was extremely soft following the torrential rain of recent days, with the game itself played on a drizzly afternoon under gloomy grey skies.
However the rugby on show was anything but dreary with Heath managing to dominate a well-drilled and strong defensive outfit in Horsham II from the outset. Only a minute into the match a quick break by the home three quarters set up a try for in-form winger Matt Duncan to score in the corner – the start Heath wanted 5-0. Five minutes later there was more of the same with wave upon wave of Heath attacks deep into Horsham territory creating numbers on the right for Duncan to go in again. 10-0 to Heath with only 8 minutes gone.
Playing down the hill meant Heath were an irresistible force with intelligent game management meaning that all the rugby was being played in Horsham’s half. After 20 minutes an eight man drive from the Heath pack won a scrum against the head providing a platform for a drive down the middle of the park which Duncan Liddell finished off by smashing through the defence to touch down. 15-0.
The muddy conditions meant that Heath’s control of the set piece was decisive and so it proved again shortly before half time when good Heath pressure from a kick into space led to a lineout on the 5 metre line. Heath won the throw in and the pack rumbled over the try line with second row Nick Miller emerging from the maul to score the try. 20 -0 at the interval.
Although playing the second half up the hill in the mud might lead some teams to ease off, Heath introduced their substitutes and continued to play some stylish rugby with the three quarters looking to go on the offensive and move the ball wide at every opportunity.
Only a gutsy defensive display from Horsham kept the score in check but it was only a matter of time before the home side were back on the board. Quick ball from a resourceful pack led to some crisp passing and interplay between the backs allowing Man of the Match inside centre Max Drage to slice through the defence and dot down near the posts, finally giving fly half Fotheringham a chance to nail a conversion. 27-0.
The Heath forwards continued to boss the game with any loose ball in the greasy conditions being turned over by the back row. Further Heath pressure led to a penalty in the Horsham half which was taken quickly to outside centre Jack Lucas who, with a powerful burst, carved an unstoppable line through the Horsham ranks to make the score 32-0. Horsham heads did not go down and their dogged tackling continued to keep Heath at bay until hard running from the home forwards led to the ball going through the hands before being offloaded to debutant 1st team hooker Will Purdie - who having come through the mini and junior ranks of Heath was returning after a couple of years away from the game - who scored under the posts capping a good performance. Fotheringham added the two points to move the score onto 39-0.
As the light faded there was still time for another success for the Heath pack - a scrum deep in the Horsham 22 led to an assertive drive with the ball being recycled at the breakdown for flanker Josh Salisbury to thrust his way through the covering tackles to give a final score of 44-0. The good sized crowd having been entertained with some quality rugby in difficult conditions retired to the Clubhouse and the newly acquired adjoining marquee to celebrate the victory, catch up on the day’s international rugby and watch the England v Samoa match. It was clear from the rugby on show that Heath’s all round game will trouble the opposition whatever the playing conditions and as we head from autumn into winter rugby the quest for promotion remains on track. With a number of social games being arranged over the next couple of months anyone wishing to turn out for a game should contact club captain Kev Mcdonald at [email protected] New and returning players of all ages and abilities are always welcome at Heath.