The first day of December meant a 2pm kick off for Heath who were hosting fellow Mid Sussex side Horsham in what promised to be a close game.
Horsham had been in a fine vein of form resulting in a strong second place in the London & South East 2 league as opposed to Heath who had slipped to seventh but were hoping that home advantage might help them take something from the game. However two days of rain which showed no sign of letting up meant that for the first time this season the pitch was heavy and conditions miserable for playing expansive rugby.
The visitors were fastest out of the blocks and, whilst missing an early shot at goal, were on the board with the first try after 10 minutes for 0-7. Heath were quick to hit back and on 16 minutes a break from centre Wilf Bridges down the left was stopped just short of the line by a desperate Horsham defence but the ball was recycled swiftly and shifted right where Casey Calder was able to dive over for a try to make the score 5-7.
SEE ALSO Heath RFC lose to league leaders Beckenham despite brave performance | Haywards Heath Rugby Club nostalgia: Pictures from the past | Heath RFC u14s fight back to win Isle of Wight thriller | Heath RFC u16s cross the border to take on Kent opposition
Horsham were playing the conditions better and, for all Heath’s committed defensive effort, were having the better of the encounter. On 25 minutes a Heath attack was turned over on the Horsham 10 metre line allowing the visitors’ scrum half to put in a fantastic hanging box kick down the line which, with help from the wind, floated all the way to the Heath try line where the winger claimed the try to make it 5-14 which is how the score stayed until half time.
Turning around with the benefit of the wind behind them, Heath were hopeful of pulling back the deficit and they struck back early. A nicely placed kick from Brett Menefy was taken into touch by Horsham and from the ensuing lineout the ball was moved into the midfield and a breakdown just inside opposition territory. From the ruck flanker Josh Salisbury saw a gap through the middle and outsprinted the defence for a fabulous try by the posts which was converted by Calder for 12-14.
Despite this early second half score from Heath, Horsham continued to play the conditions intelligently and showed better discipline in executing their kicking game, while unfortunate handling errors from Heath meant they weren’t able to build any momentum.
Horsham were clinical in taking points from their trips to the Heath 22 and two penalties eased them out to a 12-20 lead, made easier by Heath losing players to the bin.
Heath sealed their own fate in an unfortunate move when, in a strong attacking position, a crossfield kick was allowed to be snaffled by the fast footed Horsham winger who was able to run in under the posts from his own half for 12-27. Heath regrouped and came back again and after persistent pressure in the Horsham red zone moved the ball wide for second row Steve Doku to score in the corner for 17-27.
Despite their continued efforts, the home side could not get any further traction to get close enough to claim a losing bonus point and at the final whistle it was Horsham who deservedly took the win to consolidate their second place in the league table.
Heath will feel this was an opportunity missed and whilst they were competitive for seventy minutes and showed bags of determination, they were unable to execute enough control in the conditions to take anything from the game and will be disappointed to let their strong home form go astray.
Next weekend sees Heath travel away to Thanet where they will be looking to get back to winning ways.
Heath Rams were away to Pulborough 2s where they came away with a well-earned 36-0 win despite the weather.
Heath 1st XV Squad: Greg Palmer; Will Purdy; Martin McDonagh; Steve Doku; Gareth Fergusson; Sam Drage (capt); Josh Salisbury; Nick Main; Brett Menefy; Casey Calder; Jamie Diggle; Jack Lucas; Wilf Bridges; Matt Ashley; Charlie Best; Harry Preston-Bell; Dan Fergusson; Roscoe Atkins.