Spring had finally arrived at Whitemans Green as Heath welcomed old rivals Horsham for a match that was not only the final league game of the season in London South East 2, but also the semi final of the Bob Rogers Cup.
Although the sun was shining the pitch was still very sticky in patches from the previous week’s rain, meaning this was going to be an energy sapping encounter.
Heath kicked off down the slope and immediately looked to be the better side. They were quicker to the ball and more combative around the fringes meaning that the visitors were pinned back in their own half. A Horsham infringement for offside on six minutes allowed Heath to take the lead with a converted penalty from fly half Peter Kerins, playing his final game for the Club, to make it 3-0.
The home side continued to apply pressure and whenever Horsham looked to escape from their own half Heath turned the ball over and were on the attack again. Heath should have been two or three tries in front as promising attacks were let down by poor final passes or the ball being knocked on. A high tackle on the half hour led to a Horsham yellow card, but Heath were unable to press home their numerical advantage. With 5 minutes until half time a scything break from centre Jack Lucas took Heath deep into Horsham territory where the break was continued on by the supporting George Davies who in turn offloaded to Jamie Diggle to crash over under the posts. Kerins popped the conversion over and Heath held a 10 -0 lead.
Unfortunately that was as good as it got for Heath. A lack of concentration from the kick off meant Heath put themselves under pressure which was then compounded by missed tackles to allow Horsham a soft score under the posts for 10-7 at half time.
Buoyed by their score just before the break and playing down the hill in the second half, Horsham came out for the second half looking by far the more determined team. With roles reversed it was now Heath doing all the defending and struggling to exit their own half and ten minutes into the second half Horsham scored a well worked try down the narrow side from a 5 metre line out to take a 10-12 advantage. Things went from bad to worse for Heath as a yellow card when defending their line for hacking the ball through at the ruck increased the pressure. From the ensuing scrum Horsham ran the simplest of set plays to score again and increase their lead to 10-19.
Heath tried to play some rugby to get back into the game but more handling errors and an inability to execute their set piece meant that Horsham were able to keep the danger at a safe distance, with most of the rugby being played around the halfway line. Just as Heath threatened to get back into the game another yellow card and a fourth Horsham try killed off any hope that the home side had of turning things around.
Horsham played out the final minutes to take a deserved win 10-26, securing their place above Heath in the league and into the final of the Bob Rogers Cup. Heath were left to reflect on the chances that went begging in the first half and a strangely flat effort in the second half in front of a large and vociferous home crowd. So a disappointing end to the season for Heath which before Christmas had promised so much, but which has tailed away in the second half of the campaign. Whilst the senior squad can be pleased to finish in the top half of the table of this division, the sense of expectation after three successive promotions meant that there wasn’t much left to play for when performance levels dipped. The team will need to regroup over the summer and will look forward to the arrival of Ross Chisholm as Joint Head Coach bringing some new ideas to develop the squad for next season. Anyone interested in dusting off their boots and joining Heath should look out for pre-season which will start in early July - new players of all ages and ability welcome.
Heath RAMS did not have a game this weekend but have their final game of the season at home at Whitemans Green against Pulborough 2nd XV on Saturday 21 April, kick off 3pm.
Heath 1st XV squad: Sam Beckett, Wilf Bridges, Euan Greaves-Smith , Steve Doku, Nick Miller, Max Drage, Sam Drage, Nick Main, George Davies, Peter Kerins, Henry Warwick, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Robbie Fotheringham. Replacements: Brett Menefy, Josh Salisbury, Charlie Newey.