It has hardly been Fortress Whiteman’s Green this season but on Saturday Haywards Heath’s defences were well and truly down in the second half at home to Cobham.
Although still in the game at half time, things ran away from them in the second period as they crashed to a 41-0 defeat.
With the strong breeze expected to strengthen, Cobham were given the advantage of playing with the wind in the first half, when Heath hoped to contain the visitors and get on the scoreboard themselves. The first objective was achieved - just - but the second was not.
Although Heath took the game to Cobham from the outset with solid scrummaging, workmanlike line-outs focused on Al Harle’s athleticism (despite him being under the weather), and pace to the breakdown,
While Heath struggled to find the gaps or make telling breaks, Cobham took an early chance to send Max McDonald away to outstrip a flat-footed defence.
There was little between the sides but Cobham struck again as Tom Farrelly stroked over a simple penalty for 8-0.
Heath then were dealt a double blow with experienced scrum half Alex Meredith suffering the recurrence of a hamstring injury and then No 8 Steve May was yellow carded. Meredith was replaced by Tim Hartley, moving from an unaccustomed full back role, and Will Murrills, in his first game of the season, dropped back to 15.
Regular Heath and Sussex hooker Huw Jenkins, in his first game in two months following an ankle injury, took the right wing slot.
Cobham capitalised with another try for McDonald and a more controversial score for flanker Doug Redman.
The 18-0 half-time score was disappointing for the hosts but Heath were still in the game up front, where Max Drage and Chris Turner had been prominent and there was some cutting edge from Murrills and Jack Lucas.
Together with good sense and a decent boot at outside half from Tom Stokes, Heath had hope with the wind advantage to follow but they could not get to grips with Cobham’s defence and when pressing in the opposition 22 were inclined to make simple mistakes and to lose discipline. The was exemplified by Josh Salisbury’s yellow card for back chat around the hour mark.
Too often questionable defensive organisation and shaky one-on-one tackling allowed the visitors to ease pressure and to drive the ball away from danger.
The score stretched to 21-0 thanks to an early Farrelly penalty and his boot then added the two points to Guy Sears’ score from a driving maul and then another penalty.
A few minutes later replacement Jean-Louise Gravier showed all the skill and verve his name implies, by turning Heath’s defence inside out to extend the lead to 36-0.
Despite Jim Prescott adding some grunt in the scrums for Heath in the last 10 minutes, Cobham completed the scoring with a No 8 pick up from a five metre scrum, two passes and a try for Robbie Kenwood on the right.
It has been an immensely disappointing first half of the season for Heath but at least Burgess Hill can derive some comfort in their first season in London SE 3.
They slipped to a third successive defeat on Saturday but have put three wins on the board. Even so, they would have expected better than a 5-29 defeat at Uckfield on Saturday after winning the home clash 12-3 back in September.
Meanwhile, their 2nd XV will go into Christmas top of their division for the second year running after Rye 2nds were unable to raise a team on Saturday. The 3rds were also without a match when Haywards Heath also failed to raise a team. Hill 3rds are in mid-table.