Festive cheer for Heath as both senior teams win away

The last league games of 2019 for both Heath senior squads were a joint trip to the coast to play Hove 1s and 2s.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 1:24 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 1:24 pm
Heath forwards worked hard to dominate the breakdown and keep Hove on the back foot

With Heath 1st XV sitting top of London SE2 and Hove close in second place, this fixture was a potentially decisive game as both teams looked to take momentum into the new year. Meanwhile on the adjoining pitch both Heath RAMS and Hove 2 were doing battle in the last game of 2019 having both found the standard of rugby in Sussex 1 this season a struggle.

Heath 1st XV kicked off in front of a partisan Hove crowd who were quickly silenced by the quality of the visitors’ attacking play as the league leaders dominated from the outset. If it hadn’t been for Hove’s well-organised defensive set up, Heath would have quickly taken a lead after moving the ball all round the park looking for a breakthrough. A stray forearm from Hove was understandably penalised instantly by the referee rather than playing an advantage that saw Owain McLoughlin touch down what would have been a well-deserved try. Whilst Hove lost a man to the bin the ensuing penalty kick drifted wide.

Heath continued to play all the rugby in the Hove half, but in very windy conditions the final pass went astray on more than one occasion. An interception in midfield saw Hove burst deep into Heath territory but an unbelievable show of pace from second row Patrick McPherson to make the try saving tackle and then effect the turnover saw Heath rewarded with a penalty. The subsequent kick to touch and lineout resulted in a pass out to right wing Jamie Diggle who set off on a typically rumbustious break where he eluded the first defender before bursting through two more tackles to score under the posts. Will Reeves-Perrin converted for 0-7 after 22 minutes.

With five minutes until half time, continued Heath pressure saw Reeves-Perrin ghosting through defenders off the back of a ruck for an apparent try which was subsequently disallowed for obstruction. This meant, as expected, this was going to be a tight match and there was only one score in it at the break.

Heath were playing the second half into the teeth of the wind and when a second yellow card was awarded against Hove, the home support was left wondering where the scores would come from. However it was in fact Hove who were next on the board with their fly half opening up play for a try in the corner and a 5-7 scoreline.

Heath came roaring back with the red and black defensive unit hunting down every scrap of possession from Hove and forcing turnovers. There were some raised eyebrows amongst the travelling support when Heath chose to scrummage a penalty in the Hove 22, but, given the conditions, the league leaders knew what they were doing and moved the ball to inside centre Jack Lucas who sliced through the defence for the score. Reeves-Perrin added the extras for 5-14.

Heath’s calm execution of the exit from the restart took the ball up to the 10 metre line from where flanker Josh Salisbury burst through tacklers and forced his way into the Hove half before off-loading to Lucas who in turn passed onto the supporting Max Drage who was bought down just short of the line. Heath recycled quickly and for the second week running the arch poacher from the second row, Steve Doku, was lurking wide right to take the final pass of a notable team move and touch down in the corner for 5-19.

The game was far from over and, urged on by their supporters, Hove threw everything at the Heath line. A converted score for the home side saw Hove peg things back to 12-19 but despite their desperate attacks in the last five minutes, a combination of wrong options and the fact that Heath continued to play as a united defensive unit to the last, meant the home side were unable to get over the whitewash and the score remained 12-19 to Heath at the final whistle.

Although both teams showed why this was a top of the table clash with some high-quality rugby on display, Heath deservedly won meaning they have moved eight points clear at the top of LSE2 at the midway point of the season.

Meanwhile the RAMS, playing on an adjoining pitch, broke free from the shackles of recent results and, after some brilliant running rugby, came out of a highly entertaining match with Hove 2 with a 5-29 win.

Two wins on the road for Heath was a fantastic return for the senior squad’s hard work so far this season and a great Christmas boost as they head into the break. The Club has a lot to look forward to both on and off the pitch in 2020.

Heath 1stXV: Charlie Newey, Max Drage; Sam Beckett; Gareth Fergusson; Steve Doku; Sam Drage; Josh Salisbury; Sam Drage (capt); Matt Ashley; Will Reeves-Perrin; James Flicker; Jack Lucas; Owain McLoughlin; Jamie Diggle; Dougie Kern; Matt Holyland; Jamie Dimelow; Wilf Bridges.

Heath RAMS: Martin McDonagh; Louis Jordan; Seb Broster; Dan Shotton; Sam Balla-Muir; Charlie Milner; Will Cleary; Jack Bull; Kris Whelan; Rory Oliver; Ali Fraser; Robbie Fotheringham; Chris Neill (capt); Gavin Hutt; Henry Warwick; Chris Cripps; Henry Dickson; Shaun Fitzgerald