Heathfield & Waldron secured a hard-fought home win over Aylesford in one of their best performances of the season – despite the artic conditions.
The weather was poor with a steady easterly breeze bringing occasional wintry showers. But the Cypress field again provided a quality playing surface.
In these conditions a high error count was inevitable and sympathetic refereeing was needed to allow much continuity. To their credit both teams tried to play as much rugby as possible but, unsurprisingly, the game was decided by the boot and in this respect Heathfield had a trump card as Ethan Walker again delivered an immaculate kicking performance.
The first Aylesford possession was duly kicked a very decent distance with the wind by their fly-half to give the visitors an excellent attacking position. However, thereafter they failed to utilise the wind enough while it was in their favour. That initial good position for the visitors was contained by a resolute home defence that was one of the features of the game.
Just before the end of the first quarter Aylesford took the lead with a penalty, but this was cancelled out five minutes later by a home penalty by Walker (3-3). Heathfield now produced one of the few three-quarter moves on the day, with Ollie Brown and Joe Woods combining to make good ground into the right hand corner. This was followed by a forward drive that was over the line but the referee was unable to award the try.
The Greenies took the lead with five minutes left in the half with another Walker penalty although play was moving all over the pitch (6-3). The home pack showed a real appetite for the ball throughout the game and probably shaded the 50-50 contests. The visiting scrummage had an initial edge but this was clearly reversed as the game went on. Conditions made the lineout difficult with cold hands and the breeze; neither team had control as the normally dominant Heathfield lineout had their most challenging day of the season.
At half time, Michael Nise replaced Damien Pestell, signalling an adjustment in Heathfield tactics. Nise made a number of powerful direct runs that normally required several tacklers. This was combined with some well-judged kicking out of hand by Jamie Walsh, who now worked the angles and wind to make useful ground.
Ten minutes into the half Heathfield extended their lead through another Walker penalty (9-3). The game was very much in the balance and Aylesford had several periods of pressure. A late tackle on Walsh resulted in a yellow for the visiting full-back. This allowed Walker to extend the home lead but it was almost immediately cancelled out by another Aylesford penalty (12-6). The decisive score followed a few minutes later as good position in the right hand corner produced good ball for Walsh to drop a goal with aid of the wind and some luck (15-6).
This Saturday (KO 2.15pm) Heathfield entertain Deal & Betteshanger.