The return of newly promoted Heath to London South East Division 2 saw them visit old foes Horsham for the opening game of the season.
Horsham who had finished mid table in the division last season and had gone on to win the Bob Rodgers Cup were seeking to utilise their greater experience at this level against a much changed Heath side from last year. WATCH a slideshow of action pictures above
The game kicked off in bright sunshine and it was the home side who were quickest into their stride, testing the Heath side round the fringes of the breakdown and seeking to use the pace of their back three whenever possible.
Heath sucked up the pressure and defended well to keep various Horsham attacks at bay and then looked to go on the offensive themselves with a strong run by lock Gareth Fergusson almost opening up the Horsham defence before the ball went to ground. From the territory Heath were able to draw a penalty for a kick at goal but it drifted wide. By this stage of proceedings the sun had disappeared and what initially appeared to be a heavy shower was passing over the Coolhurst ground which made conditions tricky for both sides.
Horsham worked their way downfield and won the aerial ping pong to gain decent possession in the Heath 22. After a series of attacks Heath were penalised at the ruck 5 yards out and somewhat harshly were on the end of an award of a penalty try, giving the home side a 7-0 lead on 20 minutes.
Heath continued to try and get on the scoreboard and were narrowly denied a try when, after a jinking run down the left flank, winger Roscoe Atkins chipped through under the posts only for the speedy Horsham winger to cover back, slide back over the tryline and touch down. Although Heath were on top in the scrums they couldn’t score from the opportunity and play moved back down the other end of the pitch. A yellow card for Heath and a converted penalty meant a 10 - 0 lead to Horsham.
The Heath side dug in although with 14 men, and in what had become torrential rain, they could have rolled over to the more experienced team during this period. Another penalty slid by the posts and Heath were unable to capitalise from a lineout only 5 yards out from the opposition line and it looked as though Heath were not going to be on the board by half time. However a scrum infringement from Horsham only 10 yards out from their own line meant a penalty to Heath which was taken quickly but stopped illegally by Horsham meaning another penalty and a yellow card for Horsham, although not a penalty try. From the ensuing scrum influential number 8 Ed Bowden fed lively scrum half Brett Menefy who scooted through the Horsham defence for a try. Heath couldn’t add the extras but at 10-5 at the half time whistle were right back in the game.
From the restart Heath were straight back at Horsham and having worked the ball wide right, managed to create a platform for former skipper Nick Main to crash over in the corner and score a try which was converted from the touchline by Jack Best. With the majority of the second half to go Heath were in front at 10 -12 .
The rain had now reached biblical proportions with a bit of hail and lightning chucked in as well. The game would be decided by the team that could play the conditions the better over the last 30 minutes and unfortunately for Heath it was the home team that prevailed. Heath’s defensive effort remained outstanding but they could not get the necessary territory to play the game in the Horsham half and impose any of their own pressure. Horsham kicked deep into Heath territory time and again and eventually won the penalty which they converted for a 13-12 lead. Better game management from the home side saw them close the game out and withstand Heaths efforts to get the ball in hand to achieve a score.
Whilst this was a disappointing start for Heath’s league campaign, it was at the same time encouraging as the team showed they could hold their own at this level and created a number of scoring opportunities which on another day and with a bit more accuracy in the strike zone would have seen them run out winners. However two tries scored and none conceded (other than the penalty try) showed why this Heath team had the best defence in the league last season and provides a solid foundation to move forward. So plenty for new Head Coach Matt Hawkes and his team to think about and work on this week before the visit of Heathfield & Waldon RFC next Saturday for the first home game of the season at Whitemans Green. Kick off 3pm all support welcome.
Heath RAMS started their league campaign at home v Heathfield & Waldron 2nds. In a highly competitive game the RAMS ran out 25-0 winners running in 4 tries and putting down a really strong marker for the season ahead.
Heath 1st XV squad: Jack Bull (Craig Decoteau), Alex Wolfe, Euan Greaves-Smith, Gareth Fergusson (Charlie Milner), Steve Doku, Nick Main, Josh Salisbury (Wilf Bridges), Ed Bowden, Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins (capt), Roscoe Atkins, Darren Lockyer, Jack Lucas, Jamie Diggle, Jack Best