Haywards Heath rugby makes its mark at Twickenham

Dave Grimley & friends
Dave Grimley & friends

England finally found their way in their final QBE Autumn International Series with a much-needed 26-17 win over Australia - and former Heath Colts, Joe Marler and Billy Twelvetrees, were both in the starting line-up.

Joe, making his 26th appearance in an England shirt had started in all four games – against New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa - with effective performances in every game reinforcing a growing reputation amongst the rugby pundits. He continued this against the Wallabies, a game in which England’s front five put the opposition to the sword in the scrums, building a firm base from which number 8, Ben Morgan, scored two tries and the Australians were pressurised into conceding kickable penalties. Starting the Autumn series as third choice behind the injured Alex Corbeseiro and Mako Vinupola, the general view now is that both those players will have to work hard to knock Joe from pole position.

Pulling on the 12 shirt against the Australians, Billy Twelvetrees - who was called into the British and Irish Lions squad for the 2013 series-winning tour in Australia - replaced the dropped and out of form Owen Farrell to win his 16th cap. In a below-par run of form himself earlier this season, Billy came off the bench in the win against Samoa with a convincing display to earn last Saturday’s start. England all too often relied on a kicking game so Billy saw little of the ball but, with England having to make 158 tackles to Australia’s 47, his defensive qualities were to the fore. He too consolidated his reputation and will, like Joe, have other opportunities to impress during the Six Nations tournament as England Coach, Stuart Lancaster settles his squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Heath members were able to experience a slightly less exhausting day at Twickenham as they continued to enjoy the hospitality courtesy of BMW Vines of Gatwick, one of their sponsors. Pictured is Dave Grimley, Heath’s front row Treasurer and some friends last Saturday prior to the Australia match while Pete Clark had the opportunity to meet England forward Joe Launchbury as he recovers from injury.

Meanwhile, it’s now back to their day jobs in the Premiership for both Joe and Billy with each of them captaining their clubs – Joe at Quins and Billy at Gloucester. With it being a free Saturday for most other clubs last weekend, the only other ex-Heath star on display was full back Ross Chisholm in Quins’ defeat at table-topping Bath. There was no rugby in the Championship for Perry Parker (Rotherham Titans), Max Maidment (London Scottish), Ben Maidment (Jersey), Jake Henry (Plymouth Albion), while James Chisholm (Harlequins) was involved in a training weekend with England Under 20s. Former Heath scrum half Matt Walsh (Chester) was in action at the top of National 2 North in a defeat at Harrogate and both Freddie Pierpoint (wing) and Sam Beckett (prop) in unbeaten Henley’s big win at Shelford in National 2 South. Freddie and Sam both featured a couple of weeks ago in the traditional pre Varsity match warm up for Major Stanley’s XV against Oxford University. Sam also played last week for Wasps A.

It’s unlikely that many other clubs in the country have contributed quite so many players to the higher levels of the game. With their successors currently working their way through Heath’s well-populated and well-coached Mini and Junior ranks there is plenty to look forward to in future generations.

David Kemp, a founding Heath player from 1958, former Heath Chairman, organiser of the annual May Fair for 24 years and ever-present supporter, who sadly passed away at the weekend after a long illness, would be very proud.