Folkestone 7, Heath 31: Blend of youth and experience takes Heath onwards and upwards
There was a warm welcome at Folkestone RFC on Saturday - both on and off the pitch - and Heath and their supporters enjoyed the challenge.
Although racking up a fine win the previous week over league leaders Thanet Wanderers, Heath were well aware that continuing their impressive winning streak after the long journey to the hospitable Kent club would be a tough ask. That they achieved it is a measure of their current level of confidence and cohesion.
The game began with an initial flurry and within ten minutes, Heath were 0-14 up. With ball being won at will and Heath camped in the host’s half, two slick tries came as just reward for an enterprising opening period. With the forwards winning quick ball and the backs moving it slickly, mobile hooker Wilf Bridges popped up in the line before delivering a smart back-of-the hand offload to release pacy wing Bobby Conroy-Smith around the Folkestone defence for a score near the posts. Four minutes later Heath were at it again.
Energetic Jack Lucas chipped ahead; 17 year-old Henry Warwick gathered at speed; a sweeping move was halted beneath the posts, and there was Roscoe Atkins in support to dart over for the second try. Whilst both conversions were fairly straightforward, Peter Kerins tuned into his metronomic efficiency early and Heath were 0-14 ahead and looking strong.
Although Heath continued to dominate possession and territory and create opportunities, the chances were not converted into points and gradually Folkestone showed their resilience as they began to creep back into the game. Folkestone were helped by a by a few Heath mistakes, giving away a few turn-over balls and losing their discipline to incur the justifiable censure of the referee. With hard-working Harry Preston-Bell taking a knock and his replacement, Josh Salisbury, yellow-carded, Folkestone put pressure on the Heath line.
However, Heath’s defence held firm as, although a man down, the 5 metre scrums held up - with Jack Bull continuing to get the measure of the experienced prop opposite him. A relieving kick and a missed Folkestone penalty eased the pressure, but Heath’s relatively lack-lustre second quarter performance - in stark contrast to the first - continued into the period after half time.
A couple of overthrows, dropped balls, inaccurate passes and over-ambitious offloads gave momentum to Folkestone who took their opportunity from the back of a line out to drive the ball over near the posts. The conversion narrowed the score to 7-14 and, with Folkestone having slope advantage, Heath were far from secure. The visitors, however, regrouped and struck back in the final quarter to finish the game in the same way they had started it.
As Heath cleared their lines, Bobby Conroy-Smith was at hand to gather the ball forty metres out, beating three defenders with pace and strength to crash over in the right hand corner. Although Kerins missed the difficult conversion, Heath’s lead stretched to 7-19.
The bonus point try came quickly and it was magnificent. Heath moved the ball adventurously to the left from ten metres ahead of their own try line. Jack Lucas used his strength to drive through the home defence and his speed to make thirty metres before passing to the supporting Sam Drage, then back to Lucas to power his way over the final thirty metres for a cracking try, capped by Kerins’ conversion which extended the score to 7-26. The bonus point was secured but Heath weren’t yet finished. As the fog continued to move in off the Channel, Heath again attacked on the right through several pairs of hands with a body dropping over to score in the far corner deep in the mist. The scorer was confirmed as the tireless Sam Drage, who had another fine game for his second successive Man of The Match award. With Kerins being unable to see the posts from wide out on the right, it was surprising that the conversion attempt came so close.
The final whistle meant a resounding victory on the road for Heath with a winning score 7-31. During the first and final quarters Heath played well as a team - steered by astute play from half backs Menefy and Kerins – supported by strong forwards and backs units to exploit the scoring opportunities. Then with a well-organised defence, they held out when they needed to. Far from flawless, this was another important victory as Heath push onwards and upwards.
With Thanet suffering a surprise defeat at home, Heath now lie in third, now just one point behind last week’s opponents and five behind the leaders Pulborough. With the top two due to play one another, Heath will be aiming to keep their winning run going to put themselves in with a chance of promotion.
Next up for Heath is Park House at home on March 4th. First Heath RAMS will be looking to build on their big 12-67 win at Norfolk Arms on Saturday in next week’s home league game v St Francis, kick off at Whitemans Green at 2.30 pm.
Heath 1st XV squad: Jack Bull, Wild Bridges, Joss Townsend, (Euan Greaves-Smith), Nick Miller (Dan Ferguson), Dan Shotton, Harry Preston-Bell (Josh Salisbury), Sam Drage, Nick Main (Capt), Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins, Roscoe Atkins, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Henry Warwick.