Haywards Heath 22 Shoreham 26
With only two league matches remaining Heath were playing league leaders Shoreham for the third time the season, having won one nd lost one of the previous clashes.
On a sunny spring afternoon in perfect conditions for running rugby a sizeable crowd was in attendance.
Heath needed to beat the leaders to go top of the league. Neither side started well with nervy handling and basic mistakes meaning there was little continuity.
In the territory battle Heath made three early forays into the opposition 22 but a combination of robust Shoreham defence and lack of composure with the final pass saw chances go begging.
The visitors were more clinical and on their first real visit to the Heath half on 19 minutes they won a penalty which they knocked over for 0-3.
In the next Shoreham attack a kick to clear the danger was reclaimed by Shoreham and run in through missed tackles for a converted score and a 0-10 lead.
Heath battled to get back into the game but despite being dominant in the set piece couldn’t put any structure on the game to maintain territory and were not learning lessons.
Another kick out of defence went straight to a Shoreham player and was run back through a fractured defence for a second try, converted for 0-17.
With a mountain to climb and time running down in the first half Heath started to battle back and after a period of possession kicked a penalty to the corner .
The home lineout did its job and after mauling the ball towards the try line it was shipped out to the blind-side for scrum half Jamie Thurston to dive over in the corner for 5 -17.
Turning round at the break to play downhill and with the wind behind them Heath appeared to have everything in their favour to claw back the deficit.
A clearing kick from Shoreham was taken by Heath winger Roscoe Atkins who attacked down the left before moving it wide to Chris Neill before an inside pass to Thurston saw him score his second of the afternoon and make it 10-17.
Heath continued to put pressure on the Shoreham defence and a scrum in the visitors half saw the ball go through hands to winger Mitch Day who beat the defence on the outside and acrobatically touched down with a great finish in the corner for 15-17.
The visitors did not fold and managed the game superbly to work their way up field, dominating the breakdown and contact areas.
Heath ill discipline led to two penalties, both slotted by the Shoreham kicker for a 15-23 lead and saw a Heath a man sent to the bin.
Heath couldn’t get any momentum and another mistake led to yet another penalty which was moved to within kicking distance by the referee after taking offence to a comment from the crowd. Through the posts it went with eight minutes remaining for a 15-26 lead.
Heath started stringing some phases together and penalty after penalty saw the visitors lose two men to the bin.
Heath crossed the whitewash for a Jack Flower score and the try bonus but the whistle sounded for a final score of 22-26.
This week sees the final league match of the campaign at home to Steyning.
* The pre match fundraising lunch before the penultimate league match of the year saw a well attended Heath clubhouse with supporters and former players enjoying the spring sunshine out on the deck before sitting down to a three course lunch in the club. Heath Chairman ,Mark Newey, welcomed Club President and local MP Mims Davies to the event where they jointly unveiled the signage for new club wide sponsor Focus Group in the entrance hall. [pictured]
Established in 2003, Focus Group is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of business technology, delivering telecoms, connectivity, IT, cloud, cyber security and mobile solutions for businesses of all sizes across all sectors.
Based in Shoreham, West Sussex, the World Class Best Companies accredited business under the leadership of co-founder Chris Goodman boasts a talented team of over 670 professionals across eight UK offices. Focus Group has achieved market-leading organic growth alongside several key acquisitions, with a priority always placed on people and culture, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. It is a business committed to maintaining a positive impact on its workforce and the wider community and this developing partnership with Haywards Heath Rugby Club reinforces the company’s commitment to develop trusted relationships that connect communities and change lives for the better.
Chris Goodman, co-founder of Focus Group, commented: “I am excited that Focus Group is supporting Haywards Heath RFC as it continues to provide opportunities for all ages and abilities to play rugby from the youngest under 6s through the Colts right up to the veteran senior players. We are exploring ways in which we can help accelerate the plans to build a new Clubhouse at Whitemans Green and work together with the Focus Foundation to deliver inclusive sport opportunities for all boys and girls, with a special emphasis on assisting the engagement of disadvantaged children. I am impressed by the Club’s own fund raising efforts and although it is early days we clearly have a shared vision and commitment that I believe can make a real difference to the Mid Sussex community.”
* Haywards Heath U14s welcomed Tunbridge Wells RFC U14s to Whitemans Green on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning. The Haywards Heath Hurricanes took on the Tunbridge Wells ‘A’ team who convincingly won the Kent County Cup last weekend against Tondridge Juddians, whilst the Heath Spitfires took on the Tunbridge Wells ‘B’ team.
Haywards Heath Hurricanes 21 - 0 Tunbridge Wells U14s A
The Hurricanes were back in action following last week’s narrow 13-19 league defeat away in Guernsey - a result which was slightly disappointing but not enough to prevent the Hurricanes from finishing top of Division 1 this season.
Tunbridge Wells arrived clearly fired up to avenge the 31-15 defeat they suffered to Heath in their last meeting at Whitemans Green in January, but were immediately faced with a Heath side determined to show that the January win had been no fluke. The Heath forwards edged the early encounters, showing great strength in the tackle and winning the race to the breakdown to create the continuity needed to get their backs moving. After 10 minutes, some great interplay on Heath’s right saw Rory March, playing out of position at full back, finish off the move by breaking a couple of tackles to race over for an early score which Sam Denslow converted for 7-0.
Heath maintained a stranglehold over the game for the remainder of the first half. Arlo Merchant, making his first start at scrum half for Heath, was lively around the pitch and was getting the backs moving well linking well with fly half Tryfan Lewis. Ferocious tackling from the outstanding back row of Jake Bates, Leon Zeelie and Mylo Smith meant that Heath were dominant at the breakdown throughout the match, whilst the front row of Finley Baffoe-Garely, Theo Polhill and Josh Henley-Gower provided a solid platform at the scrummage.
Heath deservedly went over for a second try before half time when Denslow sliced his way through the visitors midfield for a superb try, which he also converted, to extend the lead to 14-0 at half time.
After the break, it was clear that the next score would be crucial. With their forwards continuing to be physically dominant, Heath managed the game exceptionally well, kicking astutely for territory when necessary but also moving the ball wide when the opportunity was there. Polhill at hooker, and Archie Francis at centre, an unfamiliar role from his preferred second row position, were very impressive in everything that they did, but in particular in the tackle where they both repeatedly stopped opposition players in their tracks making it difficult for them to gather any momentum.
With just minutes remaining, and still no scores from either side in a tight second half, Heath once again put together multiple phases of play before March showed great timing by coming into the line at precisely the right time to go over for a well deserved second try, Heath’s third. Man of the match Denslow converted to take the score to 21-0 as the final whistle blew.
This was perhaps Heath’s most impressive performance of the season when everything came together, with everyone playing well, sound decision making , and precise execution of those decisions. The core of the team, and in particular the majority of the forward pack, attend Warden Park Academy, and as a result there is a tremendous togetherness and camaraderie about the group. They are quickly developing into a formidable side with an exciting future.
U14 Squad: Finley Baffoe-Garley, Theo Polhill, Josh Henley-Gower, Ollie Hoyes, Paddy Cowan, Jake Bates, Leon Zeelie, Mylo Smith, Arlo Merchant, Tryfan Lewis, Oscar Clark, Sam Denslow, Archie Francis, Will Bates, Rory March, Christian Benstead-Schlup
Haywards Heath Spitfires 29 - 14 Tunbridge Wells U14s B
In the second match Haywards Heath Spitfires produced possibly their best performance of the season to beat Tunbridge Wells B team 29-14.