Heath travelled to Aylesford Bulls in Kent buoyed by the previous week’s win against Deal & Betteshanger but looking for a first away win of the season.
Whilst Aylesford had yet to win this season, all of their games had been close and the newly promoted side were keen to make an impression in the London SE 2 league.
A forgettable and scrappy first half saw Heath take a 0-6 lead courtesy of two Ben Whiteman penalties. However the Bulls fought back hard to put the visitors under intense pressure pulling the deficit back to just three points with a penalty of their own. At 3-6 it was all to play for with the Bulls getting the upper hand at the breakdown, forcing repeated infringements from Heath.
The swing in momentum forced Heath to put in an immense defensive shift, repeatedly repelling all that Aylesford could throw at them which included a magnificent try saving tackle from wing Roscoe Atkins after a breakaway from the Bulls centre. The defensive effort came at a price when, with second row Steve Doku already off injured, Heath lost not one, but three men to the bin in the same 10 minute period before half time. Other sides would have crumbled under the numerical disadvantage but the remaining 12 Heath players dug deep, tackled and rucked ferociously to hold out the Bulls until the break despite camping on their own try line for the final 8 minutes of the half.
In the circumstances, turning around at half time with a 3-6 lead filled Heath with belief as their full complement gradually re-entered the fray. A Bulls infringement soon after the restart allowed Whiteman to extend the lead to 3-9 with a penalty kick. However, another player in the bin allowed the Bulls back into the game, but with Heath’s valiant defence holding firm once again and with the home side’s heads starting to drop, Heath re-established control with some clever kicking and hard-earned turnovers suffocating any possession the opposition had.
Aylesford had no answer to Heath’s final quarter grip on the game and appeared distracted by the volume of support from the partisan travelling Heath fans who were cheering every tackle and turnover from the visitors. The pressure eventually told and after a penalty was kicked to 10 meters out, the Heath forwards took the lineout cleanly and drove through the Bulls defence before offloading to returning number 8 Nick Main, who crashed through two defenders in the corner for the first try of the day and a 3-14 lead. Understandable dissent from a frustrated Aylesford side saw a man sent to the sinbin and the restart becoming a penalty to Heath.
Back to the corner the visitors went and when the Bulls defence infringed in midfield Whiteman stepped up with another penalty to put the game out of reach at 3-17. Heath took the restart and were able to get the ball into touch for the final whistle and exhausted relief all around from both players and supporters.
This victory was hard fought and, whilst still not operating at their best, should put Heath in good spirits for the season ahead. Aylesford is always a tough place to visit and to come away with a first away win of the campaign – a victory that elevates Heath to fourth in the league - means the team can now focus on their next home game against top of the table Dover at Whitemans Green next weekend.
Heath 1st XV squad: Heath 1st XV squad: Harry Preston-Bell; Wilf Bridges; Martin McDonagh; Gareth Fergusson; Steve Doku; Sam Drage (capt); Josh Salisbury; Nick Main; Brett Menefy; Robbie Fotheringham; Roscoe Atkins; Jack Lucas; Max Drage; Ben Whiteman; Charlie Best; Owen Mcloughlin; Charles Newey; Matt Ashley.