For some Clubs the prospect of a visit from runaway league leaders Beckenham would be a daunting prospect, but such is the buzz around the senior squad at Heath at the moment that there was a mood of quiet confidence and excitement permeating the Clubhouse prior to this game.
And with the support growing behind both the rugby and, with the assistance of its main Club sponsor Fairfax and its education foundation Fairfax Building Young Futures, the off the pitch vision of a new HHRFC Clubhouse – the planning application to develop a new multi-sports pavilion that is fit for purpose for current and future generations of rugby players is currently under consideration by Mid Sussex District Council – Heath, who have a reputation for turning over Clubs higher up the league than themselves, were sitting fifth and along with top of the table Beckenham boasted the meanest defence in the LSE2 division.
The tone was set from the first minute when a box kick from Heath was allowed to bounce by Beckenham and was snapped up by the chasing Casey Calder who scorched through a gap in the defence to run an angled line straight under the posts. Calder converted his own score for 7-0.
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Beckenham hit back with a penalty for 7-3 but from the restart Heath were back at them and deep into opposition territory. From a scrum 5 metres from their own line the visitors tried to run the ball out, only to be chopped down by open side flanker Max Drage causing panic to break out in the Beckenham three quarters who lost control of the ball behind their own lines allowing Heath winger Henry Warwick to show lightning reactions to touch down for 12 -3.
Whilst Heath had the upper hand particularly at the contact zone, the threat from Beckenham was ever-present and with their big set of well-drilled forwards they were able to build a platform to launch an attack. A momentary lapse from Heath saw the Beckenham full back in to score for 12-10. Heath’s eagerness to defend saw them concede a kickable penalty half way through the first half which ominously saw Beckenham nudge their way into a single point lead at 12-13.
In keeping with the see-saw nature of the game, Heath stormed back and with quick counter attacking which took Beckenham by surprise, the ball went through the hands to release centre Robbie Fotheringham who outpaced the covering defence and touched down for 17-13. Calder calmly slotted the extras for a 19 -13 lead.
If Beckenham were shell-shocked by this score, they were blown away by what followed as yet another turnover from the immense Heath forwards, and more slick passing from the backs, opened up the league leaders yet again and allowed Warwick to roar in for his second and the bonus point try. Whilst the conversion slid wide a 24 -13 lead at half time was a healthy position to be in although nothing could be taken for granted against a side with the pedigree and organisation of Beckenham, particularly as their big forwards were turning round to play down the hill in the second half.
The large home crowd of supporters needn’t have worried as Heath picked up where they left off, regularly turning the ball over at the breakdown and bringing a line speed to proceedings that didn’t allow Beckenham to play out wide. The speed of the Heath counter attack from turnover ball meant that Beckenham were constantly on the back foot as the home side, with the bonus point banked, managed the game effectively. A penalty for off side in front of the posts was converted by Calder to stretch the lead to 27-13 and meant that Beckenham would need two converted tries to draw level.
An immense effort by the Beckenham pack took them deep into Heath territory but the home defence continued to boss the game and the visitors came away with no points to show for their work. Indeed it was Heath who looked most likely to score again and the pressure told when they forced another kickable penalty at the end of the third quarter. Calder twisted the knife extending the buffer to 30-13.
To be fair to Beckenham who were not used to being behind, let alone by such a margin, they dug deep and managed to force a penalty try when the Heath pack couldn’t hold the huge visiting forwards out from a 5 metre scrum The score back to a bridgeable 30 -20 meant the final 20 minutes were a tense affair with Heath continuing to control affairs and trusting their systems and teamwork to hold the blue and gold attacks at bay. Further Beckenham scrums in the Heath 22 were repelled by the pack led by Heath Man of the Match and skipper for the day Gareth Fergusson who, along with all his teammates, had an outstanding game in both defence and attack.
Heath continued to smother the Beckenham attacking threat until the final whistle to secure a well-deserved win. Whilst the victory doesn’t move Heath from fifth in the division, it means that they have consolidated that top five spot and made the top of the table very tight. Knowing that on their day they can beat any team in the division will give Heath confidence as they head into their next league game in two weeks’ time which is a huge league and cup double header away against local rivals Horsham. Next weekend sees the Heath RAMs play in the Harveys Sussex Plate semi-final at Whitemans Green against Shoreham, kick off 2.30pm and all support welcome for what will be another fantastic occasion – a competitive home match followed by LIVE Guinness Six Nations England v Scotland in the Clubhouse.
Heath 1st XV Squad: Matt Monahan; Will Purdy; Charles Newey; Hugo McPherson; Gareth Fergusson (captain); Steve Doku; Max Drage; Nick Main; Brett Menefy; Jack Lucas; Jamie Diggle; Owain McLoughlin; Robbie Fotheringham; Henry Warwick; Casey Calder; Roscoe Atkins; James Flicker; Harry Preston-Bell