Heading to Sutton and Epsom for Saturday’s contest with their old rivals, Heath had played just one game since mid December.
Training, especially in contact, had also been limited and it showed!
In the first half, Heath were overwhelmed in every phase by a determined Sutton side keen to consolidate their mid-table position. The home side were bolstered in key positions by a core of players with experience at a higher level, most noticeably captain and number 8 Shawn Renwick, who showed his class in picking up five tries and a number of assists.
Heath would prefer to draw a veil over a first half in which they simply did not compete. Short of contact over the past two months, Heath showed limited presence at the tackle or the breakdown whilst Sutton dominated loose play, enjoyed straightforward line out and scrum ball and pressurised Heath on their own ball.
Not surprisingly, their six tries came at regular intervals - three from Renwick, one each from former Worthing and Sussex prop, Raynn Bruce, fellow (and former Esher) prop Tariq al Khaldi and centre Guy Stuckey-Clarke. They were ably supported by impressively busy open-side James Caddy. With full back Sam Hurley converting five from six, Heath were out of the game well before half time. They showed what they could do, however, with limited possession when James Brown broke from deep, fed Robbie Fotheringham whose searing break and kick ahead created a touchdown for the following Roscoe Atkins. Special mention too for young Will Hoare, whose tackle count was massive.
Although Sutton started the second half in similar vein with tries from replacement Frankie Murray and that man Renwick (both converted by Hurley), the remainder of the half was appreciably more competitive as Heath began to get into their rugby.
Defence was more resolute, line outs and scrums more stable, with replacement prop Joss Townsend making a difference as captain Chris Turner (bravely playing the full 80 though unwell) switched to hooker. Nineteen year old Jamie Hutchings made a positive impression on his debut.
With more possession, Heath began to make more impact. Only individual over- eagerness saw two or three genuine chances going begging. Fotheringham, Meredith, Lucas, May and Atkins looked for the openings, but Sutton always looked dangerous on the break. It was the home side who added to their tally with a try for Hurley on 60 minutes and Renwick picking up his fifth on the final whistle.
With neither converted, the game ended with a disappointing 64-7 defeat for Heath.
Absence of game time and contact, a couple of late withdrawals and some old heads in the opposition were all influential - but Heath were well beaten. They will be looking to take a more heartening final quarter performance into next week’s game at bottom-placed Staines and to build on it for a first win.
Elsewhere in the senior club there was happier news. The 2s enjoyed a 60 point win in a friendly at Hove and return to league action this week at Seaford. Congratulations also to the Women’s Touch Rugby Team who, taking part in their first tournament, came a worthy second at Horsham.
Team: Chris Turner (capt), Simon Grisman (Joss Townsend), Duncan Liddell, Tom Burns, Dan Shotton (Jamie Hutchings), Adie Winters, Will Hoare, Steve May, Alex Meredith, Robbie Fotheringham, Jez Pattie, Jack Lucas, James Brown, Roscoe Atkins, Richard Sharpe (Matt Duncan)