Small margins away again. Heath’s second long distance trip in as many weeks brought a first win on the road, against a competitive Dover, but only just, writes Peter Dickson.
With Heath playing good rugby for the first 20 minutes, scrum half George Davies jinked his way through the opposition defence for the first score of the day, but the gusty wind meant the conversion attempt was carried wide.
Dover’s response was a converted try following too many missed tackles by a Heath defence that eschewed the Peter Kerins mantra of “low, low” - not a single isolated neglect during the afternoon.
Showing a good turn of speed, George Davies again touched down for Heath after chasing a kick through, the conversion this time successful. Heath’s 12-7 lead was maintained through to half time, thanks to a dominant eight which continually forced the Dover scrum backwards and denied them positive set piece play. Captain Sam Drage, in his first outing of the season, was forced off to the blood bin, a cut on his head needing the odd staple while the back of his shirt could have had a lot more.
Although Heath’s prospects for the second half seemed promising, Dover showed enormous resilience. Forced to rely on loose opportunities, they touched down after a scrappy line out in the Heath 22, their number 7 weaving his way to the line through a defence caught out of position.
A successful conversion gave Dover a two point lead, which they maintained for the next 20 minutes as Heath’s game was disrupted by injuries to Sam Drage (shoulder) and Wilf Bridges (knee) that brought an early end to their efforts on the pitch. Bobby Conroy-Smith, denied a first half try by a small margin, also sat out the rest of the game with a sore hamstring.
However, substitutes Charlie Milner, Max Drage and Roscoe Atkins brought strong legs to the attack as Heath returned to good team interplay.
Their persistence in the final 15 minutes saw them camped in the Dover 22, position and effort finally rewarded with a well worked try for Jack Lucas who touched down with 5 minutes to go, despite the close attention of a determined Dover defence. Running down the clock with ball in hand, Heath emerged with a 3 try win, final score 14-17.
This was an extremely valuable win on the road and in his first outing at full back, Brett Menefy showed good judgement and positioning; Dover nominated George Davies as Heath’s very worthy man of the match.
The league table shows Heath now equal with Charlton Park (4th) but in 5th place on points difference. Local rivals Horsham and Hove are only 4 points ahead, on 20 apiece. Although this Saturday is a League rest day, Heath will host London Exiles in the first round of the RFU Intermediate Cup.
Heath 1st XV squad: Jack Bull; Alex Wolfe: Sam Beckett; Gareth Fergusson; Steve Doku; Sam Drage (Charlie Milner); Josh Salisbury; Nick Main; George Davies; Peter Kerins; Jamie Diggle; Jack Lucas; Wilf Bridges (Max Drage); Bobby Conroy-Smith; Brett Menefy. Charlie Milner; Max Drage; Roscoe Atkins.