Heath’s final game of 2018 at Whitemans Green was a derby game against Sussex rivals Heathfield who, despite winning the reverse fixture earlier in the season, had been struggling in the LSE2 league.
However with former Heath stalwart Dave Cook at the coaching helm and truly atrocious conditions there was no doubt in the Heath players’ minds that this was going to be a tough contest if they were to exact revenge.
The Heath mindset was spot on from kick off and, after an early break from Josh Salisbury took the home side deep into Heathfield territory, the ball was moved first left and then right where outside centre Jamie Diggle crashed his way through for the opening score. Casey Calder converted for 7-0 after 2 minutes.
From the restart Heathfield tried to attack and after a while had worked their way up to the Heath 22. However turnover ball allowed a quick counter attack from Heath who cut through the visitors’ defence and moved the ball wide for Man of the Match Diggle to carve his way through under the posts for his second try within the first 10 minutes. Calder was again on target to make it 14-0.
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The home side were now completely in control with their pack dominating the set piece and the breakdown and the backs looking threatening with every attack. Only desperate Heathfield defending kept the red and black tide at bay, albeit not for long. On twenty minutes a kick and chase into the visitors red zone led to a Heathfield scrum 15 metres out from their own line. The Heath forwards put on a huge drive which led to a reset and Heath put in. Number eight Nick Main broke to the right from the base of the scrum and was stopped tantalisingly short of the line but, with his fellow back row in support, recycled the ball for Salisbury to touch down from less than a foot out to make it 19-0.
The game was done and dusted on the stroke of half time with the most entertaining try of the day when Heathfield were turned over on the half way line and the ball fed to hooker Will Purdy. Rather than go to ground Purdy managed to hand off the first tackler and then outsprinted the covering defence from his own half down the hill to score in the corner - a try the story of which was regaled over and over again after the game! More importantly it put the game beyond Heathfield at 24-0 and secured Heath a much needed bonus point.
The half time break only let the foul weather take more of a hold with driving rain and a bitingly cold wind making playing attractive rugby impossible. However, there was time for Heath to increase their lead with a jinking solo try for fly half Calder to which he added the extras for 31-0, followed by a yellow card for Heath and a consolation try for Heathfield. By the final whistle the sides just wanted to get off the park and warm up, as did the 100 or so hardy supporters who had braved the elements to watch the game live, rather than remain in the clubhouse with the rest of the Christmas lunch revellers.
A good performance from the whole team to end the year and a welcome bonus point sees Heath move up the table into sixth place in the division and real optimism that they can kick on in the second half of the season.
Heath 1st XV Squad: Dean Garry; Will Purdy; Charles Newey; Hugo McPherson; Steve Doku; Josh Salisbury; Sam Drage (Captain); Nick Main; Brett Menefy; Casey Calder; Matt Ashley; Jack Lucas; Jamie Diggle; Charlie Best; Robbie Fotheringham; Charlie Milner; Roscoe Atkins; Patrick McPherson.