An unbeaten Lewes side sitting top of the table were Heath’s opponents last weekend in a fiery Sussex Spitfire League 1 encounter.
Whilst both sides were missing a number of key players, confidence was high in both camps as, thanks to the RWC semi-final schedule, they faced up to an early 1pm kick off on a blustery day at the Stanley Turner Ground in Lewes.
The home side were quickly into their stride and it was clear from the outset that this was going to be a bruising encounter with no quarter given. Lewes were first on the scoreboard with a try from their number 8 which was converted to make the score 7-0. Stung by the early score Heath upped their game and started to use the wind to their advantage, playing the game in the Lewes half. A lineout deep in Lewes territory was taken by Hugh Erritt providing quick ball for the backs who took it into midfield before Jamie Diggle scythed through from the opposite wing beating a number of defenders before being hauled down three metres out. Diggle’s offload allowed supporting centre Casey Calder to dive over. Calder hit the extras to take it to 7 points a piece. Unfortunately Diggle was injured in the move and had to be replaced.
Heath had now gained the momentum and the pack were turning the screw both at scrum time and in the loose with the front row of Euan Greaves -Smith, Joss Townsend and Jack Bull to the fore. Lewes were penalised regularly and on the wrong side of the referee at the breakdown and after 22 minutes Heath kicked a penalty to the corner. From the line out the ball was taken down the blindside by hooker Townsend who crashed through the Lewes defence and scored in the corner making it 12 -7 to Heath.
As hard as Lewes tried to get some regular time in the Heath side of the pitch, they were unable to get the phases going with the Heath back row of Eritt, open side Josh Salisbury and number 8 Ben Davis dominating at the breakdown.
A further infringement from Lewes just inside their own half allowed skipper Calder to punish them again with a long range penalty taking the score to 15 - 7 to Heath which is how it stayed at halftime.
Lewes turned round with the win behind them and immediately stepped up the pressure. Within 5 minutes of the restart they were back in the game with a well worked try by their winger out wide on the left, narrowing Heath’s lead to 15-12.
Heath poured back into the Lewes half from the kick off and were only stopped by a high tackle which the referee penalised. Calder slotted the three points to take the score to 18-12. Lewes tried to fight back again and when Heath went down to 14 men after a yellow they sniffed an opportunity. However, an immense effort from the Heath forwards with a sustained period of pick and go rugby in the Lewes 22 led by Tom Burns, Nick Miller and Duncan Liddell and marshalled by scrum half Tim Hartley led to the next score for Heath. As ruck after ruck headed towards the Lewes try line the ball came wide to outside centre Jack Lucas who burrowed over down the narrow side on the left - it was now a more comfortable 23 -15 to Heath.
But Lewes were far from finished and after a penalty that was kicked to the corner they managed to drive over the Heath line to bring the score back to 23-20. Heath’s defence was tested to the limits but with the tackling of Will Purdy off the bench and the back three of Tyler Edwards, Tim Salisbury and full back Sam Galbraith confidently dealing with Lewes’s kicking game, Heath managed to weather the storm. A penalty against Lewes after Heath had got a shove on in the scrum meant a line out deep in the home half which Heath won. The Lewes three quarters were judged off side and Calder knocked over the penalty making the score 26-20.
Lewes, needing a converted try to win, threw everything at Heath who held on notwithstanding being down to 12 men at the final whistle after a number of yellow cards - Heath managed to turn over a decisive breakdown on the last play and kicked the ball dead to take the spoils. Josh Salisbury was Heath man of the match on a day when the whole team put their bodies on the line and got their just rewards for an outstanding display of team commitment.
A tight and exciting game of rugby for the spectators and one that sets both sides up for the rest of the season with Heath closing the points gap on the leaders and Lewes taking the comfort of a losing bonus point. No game next weekend with the next action being Heath against Worthing Seniors on the 7th November at Whitemans Green .
Heath Team: Jack Bull; Joss Townsend (Will Purdy); Euan Greaves-Smith (Duncan Liddell); Nick Miller; Tom Burns; Hugh Erritt ; Josh Salisbury; Ben Davis; Tim Hartley; Jack Best; Jamie Diggle (Tim Salisbury); Casey Calder; Jack Lucas; Tyler Edwards; Sam Galbraith. Captain: Casey Calder.
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