Heath take spoils in tough Sussex derby

Jack Lucas was one of three Heath players returning to Heathfield for the first time in four seasons
Jack Lucas was one of three Heath players returning to Heathfield for the first time in four seasons

The final league game of the year saw Heath travel away to old Sussex foes Heathfield looking to secure a win to maintain their third place in the league.

Heath hadn’t played at Heathfield since a fixture against their 2nd XV four seasons ago when Heath was starting out on the road to three successive promotions and it was good to see three of that team - Max Drage, Jack Lucas and Wilf Bridges - making the trip again, albeit now four leagues higher.

Heath were expecting a tough encounter and that is exactly what they got. Within 5 minutes early Heath pressure forced a try when Wayne Williams touched down amongst a melee of players. Peter Kerins converted to get the visitors in front by 7 points to nil.

The home side, buoyed by their excitable supporters, started to turn the screw and pinned Heath down in their own half. After 12 minutes the Heathfield forward pressure told and one of their big men stormed through at an angle for a try near the posts to tie the scores up at 7-7.

Both sides competed hard at the breakdown and neither could get the upper hand until a number of Heath infringements resulted in a yellow card and a penalty in front of the posts. The home number 10 slotted the kick for 10-7 and Heath was behind.

Heath dug deep and weathered the Heathfield pressure when down to 14 men and a break out of defence led to a penalty opportunity from around the 10 meter line which slid just wide. Further territory gains from the home side led to another converted penalty to take the score out to 13-7 before Heath countered on the stroke of halftime. Kerins had kicked a touchfinding penalty into the corner and from the ensuing lineout Steve Doku took clean ball to set the maul which rumbled forward close to the Heathfield line where Alex Wolfe peeled off to dive through defenders for the score. Kerins converted for a narrow 13-14 lead for the visitors at the halfway mark.

The second half was a really slug out in the cold and mud with Heath incapable of showing enough composure to exit their own 22 on a regular basis, whilst showing some of the best defensive resilience the team has produced this season. Wave after wave of forward attacks from the home side were resisted and when Heathfield did try to move the ball wide they were given no room by the Heath backs. After half an hour of constant Heathfield pressure, and just as the dam was looking to burst, the deadlock was broken but not as the home crowd were anticipating.

One pass too many from Heathfield and Heath scrum half George Davies intercepted and was away up the pitch from inside his own 22. After a lung bursting 70 metre break pursued by the opposition Davies touched down just wide of the posts for the decisive score to which Kerins added the conversion for 13-21 lead to Heath.

Back Heathfield came looking to take something from the game. A penalty took the score to 16-21 but despite their endeavour Heathfield didn’t look like scoring, although Heath themselves never really got close to finding their way over the line for the fourth and bonus point try.

Heath Head Coach Matt Hawkes was delighted with the win and proud of his players’ incredible defensive display at a ground where it is always difficult to come away with the points.

So another win at the end of a good year for Heath during which they have achieved a third consecutive promotion and consolidated their position in the upper half of London SE2. Despite the win at Heathfield, Heath drop to fourth in the league after failing to pick up the bonus point.

No rugby at Heath until 6th January when they face Kent side Deal & Betteshanger at home.

Heath 1st XV squad: Jack Bull, Alex Wolfe, Euan Greaves-Smith, Steve Doku, Gareth Fergusson, Duncan Liddell (Josh Salisbury), Max Drage (Dan Shotton), Wayne Williams, George Davies, Peter Kerins, Henry Warwick (Roscoe Atkins), Wilf Bridges, Jack Lucas, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Sam Galbraith