Another week, another monsoon, and again serious doubts about whether this home league game against Heathfield & Waldron would be played. Whilst the pitch was heavy and churned up somewhat after yesterday’s second team game and the earlier U15s match, the conditions were good with a sunny and still day. Prior to kick off, both teams lined up on the half way line to observe a minutes silence for Remembrance Sunday.
If last season’s game against Heathfield was anything to go by, then this was likely to be another hard fought and close encounter. So it proved, with a particularly tight first half with both teams having moments of territory and possession, as well as well drilled and ferocious defences. Heath probably shaded the territory in the first half but some particularly sloppy play, including three missed penalty kicks into the Heathfield 22, to replicate the two that were missed in last weeks game, allowed Heathfield to clear their lines and relieve the pressure. The Heath rucking and intensity levels were also again sub-standard in the first half.
Consequently, the first half ended with the scores level at 3-3 and nothing to choose between the two teams. The Heath penalty score came from Will Goodwin in reply to an earlier Heathfield penalty.
The Heath coaches made seven changes at half time to give everyone in the 22 man squad equal game time. They also emphasised the distinct lack of urgency from the team in the first half and the need for improvement.
Whilst the boys delivered on the coaches request, Heathfield probably shaded the territory stats in the second half and spent considerable periods battering the Heath try line. However, to their immense credit, the Heath defence was solid and, on each occasion, they were able to relieve pressure and work their way upfield. On about 45 minutes, Heath were able to work an overlap in the left hand corner of the Heathfield 22 for Matt Cains to be able to force his way over the line for the initial score. The conversion was missed to leave the score at 8-3.
Again Heath found themselves defending their try line and again their defence held firm, although Heath seemed to want to make it hard for themselves with one or two poor line out options, inadequate passing and dropped catches. Notwithstanding this, their try line remained intact and on 62 minutes, there was a virtual repeat of Heath’s first try with Matt Cains again crashing over in the left hand corner. Once again, the difficult conversion was missed, but Heath now had a bit of breathing space at 13-3.
The result was finally sealed a few minutes later after some excellent tactical kicking into space behind the Heathfield backs from Evan Herbert. This allowed Heath to close in on the Heathfield receiver, turn over possession and then, after some subsequent close passing in the Heathfield 22, Evan Herbert was able to drive over for the all-important third try, again in the left hand corner. The difficult conversion was missed, but with under 10 minutes left the game looked over as a contest.
Heath were able to see out the last few minutes without any drama to record a hard fought 18-3 win. Whilst Heath were occasionally sloppy and inaccurate, their defence was outstanding and they were able to identify how and where they needed to attack to seal the win. If the Hawks can learn to eradicate these silly mistakes and be more ruthless for the full 70 minutes, then they will be a very difficult team to beat.
There were a number of good performances from Harry Edwards in the loose, Bobby Collins with some dominant tackles and Matt Cains with his two tries. However, today’s man of the match award goes to Evan Herbert who played the first half at 10 and the second half at 9. His tactical kicking in the second half and his passing, not to mention his try probably contributed most to this victory.