Haywards Heath 48, Sheppey 20: Eight-try Heath back to winning ways
After last weekend's narrow defeat to Lewes,Â it was important that Heath bounced back with maximum points from their home fixtureÂ againstÂ Kent side Sheppey who were sitting in mid table in London South East 3.
The pitches had dried out and conditions were near perfect as the sides met for round 10 of the league campaign at Whitemans Green.
Heath were quick to hit their straps and within a minute of the kick off playing down the hill, a well- executed move from the forwards saw lock Tom Burns in for a score to make it 5 - 0 to the home side.
The visitors were instantly under the cosh again with a lot of the action being played in the Sheppey half. A clearance kick made it into the Heath half where it was picked up by full back Jo Ratcliffe who, after a quick counter attack, put a delightfully weighted ball over the top to the far left corner for scum half Brett Menefy to pounce for a try and take the score to 10 - 0.
Sheppey finally got the long coach journey out of their legs and started playing some controlled rugby to get themselves field position. As usual Heath's defence was strong but an infringement at the breakdown led to a penalty which the visitors converted for 10 -3 with 20 minutes gone. But it was the Heath pack who were in the ascendancy and when awarded a penalty near the Sheppey line, a tap and go from skipper Nick Main saw him crash over for 15-3. The conversion was missed as was another Sheppey penalty from just inside the Heath half.
Heath were going well with the forwards controlling the battle at the breakdown and the backs looking dangerous every time they had the ball. A yellow card for the Heath blind side didn't slow up the momentum and the home side's bonus point try came a short while later. When the ball was fed to left winger Jamie Diggle just inside his own half there appeared to be nothing on, but after beating the first two defenders on the outside he cut inside running an angle all the way to posts for a score which Peter Kerins converted for 22-3.
Heath kept their foot on the gas and the next score was for the other winger Bobby Conroy-Smith, who scorched in down the outside on the right to put the game beyond Sheppey's reach. A penalty by Sheppey just before half time meant that the teams turned round at 29-6.
So job apparently done for Heath but, given the pattern of the season so far, supporters were wondering whether after a good first half the second would be a different story. Indeed it was. Sheppey buoyed by their half time talk took the game to Heath from the restart and their pack playing a much more structured style of rugby were able to apply some real pressure in the home side's 22. Wave after wave of attacks were repelled by the Heath defensive effort until eventually the Sheppey prop side stepped his way over the line from close range to pull the score back to 29-13.
Heath were quickly back at their opponents and when after good territory in the Sheppey 22 a clearance kick was hit straight down Diggle's throat on the 10 yard line,the counter attack was on. An arcing cross field run from the winger opened up space on the right only for a scissors with the supporting Jack Lucas allowing the centre to carve his way back through the defence and score to the left of the posts for 36-13.
After a Sheppey incursion to the Heath half was snuffed out, a further try for Heath followed with a quick penalty being moved wide right where another inch perfect kick threaded through the defence allowed Conroy-Smith to chase and touch down for his second of the day and a score of 41-13.
The visitors came back on the offensive again and managed to get field position deep in the Heath 22. Once again relentless attacks were stopped by the Heath defensive set up - but often illegally leading to numerous penalties. Sheppey didn't go for the three points but kept turning the screw until the referee had seen enough and issued the Heath back row with two yellow cards within a minute of each other. Sheppey continued to apply the pressure and eventually numbers told with their winger going on the right hand side for 41-20.
Heath wrapped up proceedings with a try for full back Ratcliffe after good hands through the home backs created space on the right to make a final score of 48-20.
A lot to like about the Heath performance with a bonus point win just what the team needed after the previous week’s slip up against Lewes, although once again the inability of the team to really put a side to the sword after establishing an early advantage must be an area of slight concern to the coaches with bigger battles to come. Heath's individual flair was often the difference between the sides and the team performance looked a little ragged under pressure, especially when the penalty count crept up in the second half. That being said to only concede one score during the 10 minutes when playing 13 men against 15 shows how the defensive set up is working well. Next week sees a Saturday off in the League although the clubhouse will be open for the England v Australia international live – all welcome. The following week Heath travel away to Aylesford Bulls.
Heath RAMS were also in action at home against the BCMS Medics. The visitors turned up without a front row meaning uncontested scrums which was unfortunately the RAMS downfall. Although they competed well against the quick student team they were eventually beaten 29-10.
Heath 1st XV squad: Euan Greaves-Smith, Wilf Bridges, Jack Bull (Harry Preston-Bell), Tom Burns, Dan Shotton, Sam Drage (George Oliver), Huw Jenkins, Nick Main (Captain), Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Robbie Fotheringham, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Jo Ratcliff (Henry Warwick)
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