Haywards Heath go top after hard-fought win
A packed clubhouse witnessed Haywards Heath under-13s officially graduate to junior rugby pre-match by way of the traditional club tie presentation, before providing a guard of honour for the players and joining the on pitch remembrance day minute’s silence at the start of the home game at Whitemans Green against league leaders Shoreham on Saturday.
As the game kicked off it was easy to see why Shoreham were top as they appeared a well drilled outfit and it was the visitors who drew first blood with a try out wide for 0-5 after 20 minutes.
The home side hit back after a penalty was kicked to the corner and from the lineout moved into midfield where Tom Wharton outpaced the defence and scored under the posts. Skipper Chris Neill added the extras for 7-5.
Missed tackles in the Heath 22 saw Shoreham back in front with an excellent score for 7-12. However, Heath worked their way back into the visitors’ half and fashioned an opportunity wide right for winger Will Ratoff to beat his opposite man and touch down and bring the scores equal at 12-12.
More good work from the Heath forwards including a barnstorming run from second row Dan Shotton took play deep into the Shoreham red zone where Lewis Goodhall was able to crash over for a try which was converted by Neill edging Heath in front 17-12 at the half time break.
Ten minutes into the second half Heath extended their lead when Wilf Bridges charged down a Shoreham kick and then won the foot race against a retreating defence to score under the posts for 24-12.
Heath now had control of the game and were again given good field possession from the boot of Neill which was cleverly kept in play by Wharton for the supporting forwards to take it up to the visitors’ line, where front row stalwart Martin McDonagh crashed over for 29-12.
Shoreham hit back with a try of their own to reduce the deficit to 29-17 but a calmly taken penalty by Neill took the game beyond the visitors at 32-17.
However, there was still time for an interception try under the posts for a quick thinking Wharton and a late consolation for Shoreham which saw a final score of 39-24.
The Heath coaching team will feel this is mission accomplished for the first stage of the season as the team now move into the Premiership side of the division for the remainder of the season, although it is the performance that will have pleased them the most.
A blend of experience and youth with nine of the squad coming from the colts team that won the 2019-20 Colts Championship really gelled Heath together as a team and helped the squad to manage the game effectively.
There is now a short break in the season with the next match being a home game on December 4.