Whitemans Green was packed for Heath’s first home game of 2019 against Aylesford Bulls in London South East 2 with the RAMS in action against Eastbourne on the adjoining pitch making for a busy afternoon at the Club.
Heath were on a run of good form taking a draw and two wins from their last three games and with numbers in training strengthening weekly as the Heath coaching team make the sessions challenging yet fun, the squad was confident of a strong showing against the Bulls who had been struggling in the league so far this season.
Things looked ominous for the Bulls from the early stages as Heath showed a greater intensity and looked quicker around the park, as well as being more organised in their set up. In fact the game was all being played out in the Bulls half with the visitors struggling to get any time in possession. Heath carved out a number of opportunities in the Bulls’ red zone with some clever plays, but handling errors in delivering the final pass, poor decision making or robust tackling meant that the home side contrived to spurn a number of early try scoring chances.
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Heath continued to play all the rugby and eventually managed to get on the board. A penalty on half way was kicked deep to touch and then taken clinically at the line out – when the drive was halted by the Bulls pack it was spun into midfield where centre Owen McLoughlin crashed through three tackles to score under the posts. Henry Warwick slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead. Despite all the possession and territory Heath’s scoring stalled and with just a one try lead at half time, they needed to focus and kick on if they were to maximise the opportunity to secure all the points on offer from the contest.
The second half saw Heath’s dominance continue with their aggression at the breakdown giving them regular front foot ball to attack the Bulls’ defensive line, and their efforts to keep the ball moving giving the visitors little respite from the constant threat to their try line. Quick thinking at a five metre penalty from winger Charlie Best saw a tap and go up to the line where McLoughlin rode his luck to snaffle his second try of the day. Warwick converted for 14-0.
While the crowd were looking for the floodgates to open, the Bulls stepped up their game and made a couple of forays into Heath territory but were unable to get themselves past one of the tightest defences in the division. Heath took a pragmatic approach to a penalty awarded in front of the posts with Warwick stepping up to take the points for 17-0 and put daylight on the scoreboard between the teams.
From the restart Bulls won a penalty in front of the posts but showed their ambition by kicking to the corner. Once again the Heath defence was up to the task defending the lineout and rolling maul before clearing their lines. Back in control Heath tore back into the Bulls with some slick inter-passing in their own half creating space for Dougie Kern to slice his way through the visitors’ line and outpace the defence to touch down. Warwick nonchalantly popped the extras over for a 24-0 lead.
Hunting down the four try bonus point, Best received a pass following another break from deep to outpace his opposite man and score in the left corner for 29 -0. The game ended as it had started with the Bulls defending their own try line but Heath were unable to add to their tally and 29-0 remained the score at the final whistle.
The scoreline did not flatter Heath and with a little more composure this could have been an absolute rout, notwithstanding the brave defensive shift from the Bulls. Whilst the coaches will be pleased with a bonus point win coupled with a clean sheet they will be seeking a more clinical performance against higher ranked teams.
On the adjoining pitch the RAMS had a fantastic run out against an Eastbourne side keen for a tough encounter before a cup match next weekend. In a game that was closer than the final score suggests, the RAMS ran out 51-6 winners with a number of individual performances putting pressure on a starting place in the 1st XV and illustrating Heath’s current strength in depth – a position that provides reassurance as the squad continues its push for final league position this season.
The day concluded with the full senior squad enjoying T-bone steak night in the Clubhouse cooked on barbeques by Club Treasurer Dave Grimley and his band of volunteers. Next week’s Bob Rogers cup match has been conceded by the opposition so there is likely to be a week off for the team.
Heath 1st XV Squad : Martin McDonagh; Will Purdy; Charles Newey; Gareth Fergusson(captain); Steve Doku; Josh Salisbury; Max Drage; Nick Main; Brett Menefy; Jack Lucas; Jamie Diggle; Owen McLoughlin; Robbie Fotheringham; Charlie Best; Henry Warwick; Charlie Milner; Dougie Kern.