Although the early morning snow had eased off, there was still a bitterly cold wind blowing across Whitemans Green as league leaders Heath hosted Crowborough II in their latest Sussex Spitfire1 fixture.
A vociferous crowd of over 150 hardy supporters braved the elements to see if Heath could maintain their momentum and consolidate their place at the top of the table.
From the whistle Crowborough were quickly on the attack into Heath territory competing for every scrap at the breakdown. However Heath forced the turnover allowing them to counter from deep in their own half with a long kick and chase from Jack Best into opposition territory being recycled down the back line for winger Jamie Diggle to go crashing through and score under the posts. Peter Kerins slotted the ball through the uprights for a 7-0 lead after just 5 minutes.
Heath settled into the game and looked dangerous with the ball in hand whilst struggling to dominate at the breakdown. After 12 minutes they were on the board again with slick interpassing between the threequarters setting up space for Jack Lucas to burn through and score under the posts, which Kerins converted to move the scoreboard on to 14-0 .
Despite the biting wind Heath were beginning to play some decent rugby spending a lot of time in the Crowborough half. Sustained pressure led to a penalty in front of the posts which the home side ran and after numerous phases and good ball retention from the pack, Lucas popped up on the blind side wide on the right to cross the try line for 19-0. Looking like a skills lesson from Heath matchball sponsor 1st Central’s Trick Shot Challenge, Kerins conversion hit the crossbar from wide out but failed to drop over for the additional points.
Stung by a third try Crowborough managed some sustained pressure of their own in the Heath 22 and were able to work numbers wide right to create an overlap from which their winger was able to score. With the try converted the teams turned around at half time with Heath holding a 19-7 lead.
Playing downhill in the second half should have made life easier for Heath and they were quickly on the offensive deep into Crowborough territory. The Crowborough defensive effort was immense and they managed to repel wave after wave of Heath attacks. The bonus point try eventually came when open side flanker Josh Salisbury picked up after coming through the middle of a ruck and bolted in from 15 metres out to take the score to 24-0.
Heath continued to attack the Crowborough line and increased the momentum by bringing on fresh legs from their bench, but a combination of handling errors or missed overlaps coupled with Crowborough’s determination not to concede meant the game remained without a further score until the very final play. The Heath pack were battering away at the Crowborough line when Man of the Match Josh Salisbury repeated his first score again, picking up at the breakdown and charging through the gap to touch down for 29-7. Kerins hit the extras and the final whistle went for a 31-7 victory.
Whilst credit should be given to Crowborough II for their never say die defensive effort in the face of the relentless second half pressure from the home side, Heath will be wanting to tighten up parts of their game in order to become more ruthless when dominating possession. However, given the conditions, Heath cannot complain about a bonus point win to consolidate their position at the top of Sussex 1 and the club goes from strength to strength as the Heath 2nd XV who were playing a friendly away at Barnes Green won by 17-15 to maintain their good form.
There is no game next weekend but the following week sees Heath away at Hellingly who are currently sitting in third place in the league and will prove another tough test for the squad.
Team: Jack Bull; Paddy Sandys-Renton (Joss Townsend); Duncan Liddell; Nick Miller; Tom Burns; Dan Fergusson (Wilf Bridges); Josh Salisbury; Hugh Erritt; Tim Hartley (Ali Fraser); Peter Kerins; Jamie Diggle; Matt Smith; Jack Lucas; Roscoe Atkins; Jack Best.
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