Heath Under 13s, the reigning County Champions, won the league with a emphatic win over third placed Shoreham at Whitemans Green on Sunday.
Heath knew that nothing less than a bonus point win would suffice as the teams went into the final weekend of league matches as they were sitting in second place on points difference behind old foes Chichester.
The squad did not disappoint and in front of a large crowd on the Heath 1st team pitch the red and blacks were quickly into their stride putting Shoreham under pressure from the off - whilst a couple of scoring chances went begging, Heath were on the board after 10 minutes when the ball moved down the three quarters creating space for flying winger Owen Ratcliffe who opened his account for the day by beating his opposite man and the full back on the outside and going under the posts.
Full back Rafe Liebers calmly slotted the extras to steady the nerves and give Heath a 7 -0 lead.
Straight from the kick off Heath were back on the offensive closing down any Shoreham attacks and surprisingly getting the better of the scrum battle, notwithstanding the size of the opposition. Some great driving play into the Shoreham half, coupled with clever offloading, took the ball up the left side of the pitch allowing Henry Duffield to receive an offload and crash over in the corner for a 12- 0 lead. Heath continued to press for the remainder of the half but could not add to the score in a fiercely competitive encounter.
Turning round at the break the Heath coaches urged the squad to up their game for the second half and search out the bonus point tries needed. The Heath pack tore into the Shoreham forwards and using the hill to their advantage delivered front foot ball for the backs to exploit. The ball was moved through the hands leaving a hint of space for Ratcliffe on the touch line who duly beat the covering defence and scored which with the extras took the score to 19-0.
Heath’s tails were up and receiving from the restart they were straight back into Shoreham territory. Shoreham’s defence was very committed all match and managed to hold Heath out until good field position on the left from the home pack allowed Ratcliffe to come in off his wing and jink his way across the pitch before cutting back in at the angle through the despairing tacklers and score under the posts to lock down the all-important bonus point. Again Liebers stepped up to dissect the uprights taking the score to 26-0.
Even with the bonus point secured there was no let up from Heath as they knew they had to claw back the points difference with Chichester. With the bench emptied of substtitutes Heath looked to up the ante - unfortunately for Shoreham their kick off went straight to Ratcliffe who ran straight down his wing and scored his fourth of the afternoon to move the scoreboard onto 31-0.
Heath continued knocking on the door and on a more clinical day would have had three or four more tries. However they were not finished and great surging runs from forwards and backs alike down the right created a try for Charlie Layton whose support play on the shoulder of the ball carrier paid off.
Liebers nonchalantly chipped the conversion over from the right hand side to take the score to 38-0 with 4 minutes to play. A few handling errors crept into the Heath game allowing Shoreham to spend the rest of the game camped in the Heath 22 . However the Heath defensive game was on a par with their attacking finesse and there was no way through for the green and gold Shoreham forwards. At the final whistle Heath had done all that was asked of them closing out a third consecutive league game without conceding a score and with the bonus point secured. Rivals Chichester managed to beat Jersey 24-5 but the swing in points diference meant that Heath were crowned league winners.
This was a great effort from the whole team in their first year of 15 aside rugby leading Head Coach Clive Thomas to congratulate the entire squad on their total committment over the season describing them as a credit to the wonderful game of rugby. Next up for Heath U13s after a couple of friendlies is Grand Finals Day on the 26th April at Brighton RFC.