Facing a derby against the only Sussex side above them in the London South East 2 league, Heath travelled to Hove for a match that looked likely to significantly shape the outcome of each side’s season.
Hove having been one of the two dominant teams in the league were sitting second with Heath, just three points behind in fourth, knowing that a win could take them above their old rivals.
Given what was at stake it was not surprising that the match turned out to be a tense and often scrappy affair with neither side able to get a stranglehold on the game.
Hove were quickly on the attack from kick off winning a penalty on the Heath 22 that slid wide. The visitors looked to capitalise on the miss and on the five minute mark had made territory count when Peter Kerins hit a penalty from the Hove 10 metre line to put Heath 0-3 ahead. Hove tried to turn their possession into points but Heath’s defence was as strong as ever and they were to get the next score. A scrum to Heath on the Hove 22 and bang in the centre of the park gave the visitors an attacking platform which they clinically exploited. Heath number 8 Nick Main picked up off the back of the scrum and fed scrum half Brett Menefy, who attacked the space before feeding full back Robbie Fotheringham who spun out of the tackle to score a try. The conversion went wide, 0-8.
Within five minutes Hove had hit back following a period of continued pressure. A lineout deep in Heath territory was mauled up to and over the Heath line to make it 5-8. With Hove also missing their conversion both the home and the travelling spectators knew a tense afternoon would follow.
Hove continued to press and just after the half hour levelled matters with a penalty in front of the posts for not releasing. The Heath side, with the wind strongly behind them, worked their way back down the field and after spinning the ball wide managed to pick and go over the line for flanker Josh Salisbury to score. Kerins added the conversion to give Heath breathing space and a lead at 8-15. There was time left in the half for Hove to miss another penalty before the whistle signalled the break.
Turning around into the strong wind, Heath needed a resolute 40 minutes of defence but were immediately hit by a soft sucker punch try following a quick break downfield from Hove, with the away side having lost their defensive shape. The score was unconverted meaning that Heath held a slender 13-15 lead but were facing a home side with the momentum.
Heath’s defensive effort held out for another 20 minutes until Hove pressure finally told. From a breakdown in front of the posts Hove switched the majority of their backs left, drawing all the Heath cover but then slickly moved the ball wide right for their fullback to score for 20-15.
Try as they might Heath couldn’t get any consistent territorial possession and too often they were turned over or penalised when runners became isolated allowing Hove to clear. It wasn’t until the last five minutes that Heath really began to turn the screw and with a number of well-constructed phases that slowly worked their way towards the Hove line, but Heath’s efforts just fell short. With Hove clearing downfield each time Heath continued to come again but were unable to get over the whitewash for the decisive score.
So full time saw a 20-15 win for Hove consolidating their position in second place in the league whilst Heath drop to fifth with just a losing bonus point to show for their troubles. The home side probably shaded the game but this was another match that Heath could have won having got themselves into a lead and having had opportunities at the death to score. Hove’s celebrations at the final whistle showed just how close Heath had come to winning this fixture both home and away this season, but it was not to be.
Heath RAMS continued their fine form of 2018 with another win, this time on the road at Crawley, where they came away with a well-earned 34-3 victory.
Heath 1st Xv squad: Sam Beckett, Alex Wolfe, Duncan Liddell, Gareth Fergusson, Steve Doku, Wilf Bridges (Wayne Williams), Josh Salisbury, Nick Main, Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins, Roscoe Atkins, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Robbie Fotheringham (Henry Warwick)