Haywards Heath 7, Lewes 10: Heath undone in tight local derby
Whitemans Green attracted a large crowd for the first homeÂ local derby of the season as Heath hosted old rivals Lewes.
Both teams were newly promoted to London South East 3 after successful campaigns last season but it was Heath who had been showing the better form this term and were looking to keep that form going, notwithstanding a much changed pack from their last league outing.
What the doctor did not order for Heath was the torrential downpour which blew in almost immediately the teams kicked off and lasted for the first 15 minutes of the match meaning cold conditions were compounded by a wet and greasy ball and slippery conditions underfoot. The Lewes forwards, playing down hill, were quickly into their stride and Heath were under the cosh for the first half an hour of the game, with only the home side's strong defence preventing a score against them. Lewes should have been in front but missed a couple of penalty shots at goal.
Heath's first proper foray into opposition territory was from a long kick and effective chase causing the Lewes defenders to kick the ball dead in goal. However from the resulting set piece the home side's normally reliable scrum could not get the go forward needed to put real pressure on the Lewes line,and the danger was cleared. Whilst Heath continued to show what a good defensive unit they have been all season, they were unable to get any sort of attacking foothold in the game with the Lewes forwards having the upper hand in all areas. Heath's usual control at the breakdown was absent, as was their scrum dominance and once again the lineout was a lottery meaning that any territory relieving penalties often meant coughed up possession from the restart.
At the half time whistle the teams turned round at 0-0 in what was turning into a proper old fashioned, uncompromising and no quarter given derby match. Although conditions were still wet and cold, the rain had stopped and Heath were now playing down the incline, which were grounds for optimism with the home support. Heath were, however, unable to produce their usual game of two halves and it was Lewes who continued to have the momentum after the break. A long kick right into the far left corner gave Lewes a great attacking platform which they clinically executed with a short lineout allowing their big number 8 to score. A fine kick from out wide added the two points meaning that Heath trailed by 7-0.
The score stung Heath into action and they finally started to put some phases together. The pack looked more dynamic in the loose and at the set piece the scrum managed to put a drive on and take a couple against the head,although the lineouts remained hit and miss against some big and well drilled Lewes jumpers. After a break downfield from fly half Peter Kerins had given Heath some good field position, they were finally able to properly test the Lewes defence. When a penalty was awarded against Lewes for not releasing 10 meters out Heath turned down the lineout and skipper Sam Drage tapped and was driven over for the score. Kerins converted for 7-7 .
Lewes seemed rattled by the score but Heath were unable to capitalise as a combination of poor decision making and execution, as well as a strong Lewes defence which meant that the play was all taking place on the half way line, or just in Heath’s half. Indeed Lewes should have scored a well worked try when they moved the ball wide but managed to butcher an overlap by stepping inside to be engulfed by the covering Heath defence. Heath were not so lucky a few minutes later when conceding a penalty just outside of the 22 but in front of the posts. The Lewes goal kicker slotted the kick for a 10 -7 lead with approximately 10 minutes of the game remaining .
Heath again showed their spirit by taking the ball deep down into Lewes territory and trying to find a way to open up the defence. As the clock ticked down Heath’s urgency in valiantly trying to find any sort of score meant there was little structure to their attacks and wrong options meant Lewes snuffed out the danger. The final whistle came and Lewes were able to hold out for a deserved victory which meant they leapfrogged Heath in the league moving up to 3rd place, whilst the home side dropped down to 4th. Heath were able to take a losing bonus point from the encounter and the London & South East 3 spoils appear to be between the top 5 sides in the division, who all appear capable of beating each other. Heath will reflect on this game as being one they could and should have won but a combination of key players missing and filthy conditions meant that Lewes were able to take the points on the day. There were positives, particularly in a defensive effort which restricted a Lewes side who had been averaging close on 30 points a game to just 10 in this fixture. Whilst Heath continues to have the meanest defence in the league there is once again plenty for the coaches to work on with their squad this week in training and an opportunity to put matters right next week as they face Sheppey in another home fixture.
It was not a good week for Heath as the RAMS travelled away to Worthing Azurians and despite competing manfully against a team armed with 7 substitutes on the bench were beaten by 32-13. Next week RAMS are home to BSMS Medics.
Heath 1st XV squad: Euan Greaves-Smith, Wilf Bridges, Sam Beckett, Tom Burns, Nick Miller, Sam Drage (Capt.), Huw Jenkins, Harry Preston-Bell, Brett Menefy , Peter Kerins, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Robbie Fotheringham, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Joe Ratcliff - Unused Subs - Henry Warwick, Chris Neill, George Oliver
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