In terms of progress in the Six Nations it was a weekend of mixed fortunes for former Haywards Heath RFC Colts - Joe Marler, Billy Twelvetrees and James Chisholm as England took on Ireland in the Emerald Isle at senior and Under 20s levels.
James was first up, again playing the full game, mainly at number 8.
Jo Marler may well be disappointed that he didn’t quite inflict the damage on his opposite number
In a tough contest, he continued to impress with his strong defence and ball carries, line out work, support and control at the base of the scrum. Drawing on his captaincy of England Under 18s and his senior Quins experience, James was always at the core of the action as England successfully regrouped after a 6-9 half time deficit.
In the second half, England quickly took the lead through ex Cumnor House School and Eastbourne College full back, Piers O’Connor, entering the fray from the bench to race 80 metres for a great individual try.
It was still game on though with Ireland retaking the lead with an unconverted try and England drawing level from a penalty.
Ten minutes from time Chisholm sucked in the Irish defence from five metres to create the space outside for Joe Marchant, a Sussex-based player currently on loan from Harlequins to Worthing, to burst through for the winning score.
In Sunday’s much-hyped big game at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium both teams were looking to maintain their unbeaten records and progress to a rare Grand Slam. In a fiercely competitive game, the match statistics were even, including solidity in the scrums.
However Heath’s Jo Marler may well be disappointed that he didn’t quite inflict the damage on his opposite number apparent against Wales and Italy. Despite the stats, Ireland dominated territory and quality possession to take a well-deserved 19-3 lead into the final quarter. An England flurry in the last ten minutes raised hopes of a fightback as England worked hard to narrow the gap. Billy Twelvetrees’ appearance from the bench coincided with this momentum change – he was, however, in the wrong place at the wrong time for the first of England’s disallowed tries, although instrumental in setting up Nowell for the second with the last play of the game.
With a fortnight’s break from international duty, all three former Heath players and their teams are still very much in the Six Nations running. Both squads will need to win their remaining two games - both at home - to Scotland in two weeks’ time and France in the final game the week after. To be in with a chance of the Championship, the seniors will need Ireland to slip up in Cardiff and the U20s to convincingly overcome their French counterparts. You can watch the Under 20s in their efforts to do so since the game is at Brighton’s Amex Stadium on Friday March 20th, kick off 7.55pm, tickets on sale now.