Haywards Heath 14, Lewes 29: Heath go down to top of the table Lewes

Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert
Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert

Lewes RFC were the visitors to Whiteman’s Green on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon where they were seeking to avenge their only defeat of the season against a Heath side who whilst level with the leaders on points had played a game more.

Unfortunately Heath’s preparation for one of the biggest games of the season was again interrupted by injury with 4 players being forced to pull out between Thursday night’s training and kick off meaning it was a much changed team to face the top of the table visitors with only 6 of the side who had started against Lewes earlier in the season lining up for the return fixture.

Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert

Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert

Heath started energetically with the forwards taking the ball up the pitch through a number of phases to put the leaders under early pressure on their try line and were unlucky not to get on the scoreboard when a clearance kick was charged down deep in Lewes territory . However it was the visitors who were to draw first blood after an incursion into the Heath half with a penalty to make the score 0- 3 after 15 minutes . Heath rallied from the restart and good work from the pack earned a well deserved penalty allowing Peter Kerins to even matters up at 3-3.

The match remained fairly evenly balanced with both sides testing the other and defences holding the upper hand . Early injuries on both sides meant the need for replacements with Heath losing their captain Rob Hollingum to a leg injury after only 20 minutes.

Quick ball from the Lewes pack worked wide by their pacey backline allowed their full back in for the first try of the day which was unconverted moving the score onto 3 - 8.

Again Heath hit back and good further pressure allowed Kerins to knock over another penalty to reduce the deficit and a score of 6-8 in what seemed destined to be a tight match and which was keeping the large crowd thoroughly entertained.

Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert

Action from Haywards Heath v Lewes from Saturday. Picture by Phil Herbert

At this stage of the game Heath seemed to be taking control of the game and had consistent periods of possession deep in Lewes territory and a number of opportunities to take the lead . A combination of the final pass going astray or the wrong option being taken at the vital moment meant that try scoring chances came and went and in the 5 minutes before half time the game appeared to drift away from Heath as Lewes struck twice . Both scores came from passages of play when Heath were in the ascendancy and on the attack but coughed up possession allowing quick counters from Lewes who ruthlessly took advantage with tries run in from distance by their winger and then centre leaving Heath with a mountain to climb at the break with a 6-20 score line.

To be fair Heath heads did not go down and playing downhill with the wind in the second half they set about trying to claw back the points differential . Within minutes of the restart the home side had won a penalty which Kerins slotted for 9 -20 and Heath had a period of the game when they were in the ascendancy both in territory and possession . Despite hammering away in the Lewes 22 the home team could not work an opening with the impressive visiting tacklers marshalling all that was thrown at them.

Eventually the pressure told and from a scrum 10 yards out substitute Ben Davis capped a Man of the Match performance by bursting off the back of the set piece through a number of defenders and offloading for wing Tyler Edwards to score in the corner . Kerins was just wide with the conversion meaning a score of 14-20 but a renewed sense of belief in the Heath ranks as they were only a score behind.

However as Heath continued to force the game looking for a winning try the highly organised Lewes team sucked up the pressure and continually exited well from their own line . A number of scything runs from Heath centre Jack Lucas took the home side into Lewes territory but once again Heath could not execute cleanly to turn the possession and territory into points. Conversely each time Lewes got into range of the Heath posts they managed to extract a penalty and three clinically taken penalties in quick succession put the game beyond Heath with a final score of 14 -29.

This was a thoroughly professional and well drilled display from Lewes showing why they are top of the table although the final score line does not accurately reflect the tight nature of the match .Heath can take a lot of positives from the performance of a side which whilst disrupted by injuries managed to carve out a number of opportunities against experienced opposition. Lewes acknowledged that this was their toughest game of the season as well as their best defensive effort and the two sides are clearly the stand out teams in the division with both battling for promotion at the end of April. Heath head coach Jody Levett will be hopeful that the injury problems subside (or at least do not worsen) as his side enter the business part of the season with almost an entire senior team on the treatment table . Next weekend sees Heath away at Crowborough II looking to get back to winning ways.

Heath Rams were also playing at home meaning a busy afternoon at Whitemans Green and in the clubhouse afterwards. The Rams hosted a Shoreham side which was meant to be a second team but with Shoreham 1sts not playing had clearly been strengthened for the fixture . A disallowed try for the Rams late on meant that despite a valiant effort they went down to a 15 -17 loss in a really competitive and tight game . The Rams performance was made all the more impressive as they lost 3 players shortly before kick off to cover injuries in the 1st team.

Although the club suffered two losses at the weekend both were competitive and entertaining games showing the depth of the senior squad despite the number of injuries and there was a great rugby buzz around the crowded clubhouse afterwards as members and players sat down to watch England take on Ireland in the 6 Nations on the Big Screen .If you are interested in playing rugby at Heath please contact Director of Rugby Glen Jones - glenjonesrugby@gmail.com.

Heath Team v Lewes : Jack Bull (Paddy Sandys-Renton); Joss Townsend; Duncan Liddell; Hugh Erritt; Steve May; Huw Jenkins; Chris Neill; Rob Hollingum(captain) (Ben Davis); Brett Menefy: Peter Kerins; Jamie Diggle; Wilf Bridges; Jack Lucas; Tyler Edwards; Marc Cashman (Tim Hartley).

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