Still smarting from last weekend’s defeat to Dover, Heath were looking to get back on track with a return to Whitemans Green in a League and Cup double header against old Sussex rivals Pulborough.
The visitors, who had been promoted as champions last year, have been struggling so far this season but the added incentive of a run in the Bob Rogers Cup in which they had been finalists last year meant that they too were desperate for the win.
From the outset it was clear that Heath were in a different mindset than the previous week and, despite testing conditions underfoot, were looking to play some expansive rugby. With just five minutes gone and Heath camped in the Pulborough 22 a penalty was quickly taken by flanker Wilf Bridges who was held up just short of the line where the supporting Duncan Liddell picked up and crashed over for a try and 5-0.
Two long range penalties from Pulborough meant that they took the lead at 5-6 despite not managing to venture into the Heath 22 in the first 15 minutes. But Heath continued to press and from a lineout 10 metres out they moved the ball wide right, went through the phases and put it back through the hands to the left hand side where second row and Man of the Match Steve Doku drove through defenders for a score. Peter Kerins stepped up to hit the conversion for 12-6.
Pulborough kept themselves in the game with another penalty from distance to narrow the deficit to 12-9 which is how the score remained until almost the stroke of halftime. A scrum to Pulborough on their own 22 didn’t look like a scoring opportunity for Heath but a huge eight man drive from the home pack meant the ball shot out the side of the scrum where it was fly hacked through by flanker Max Drage, allowing scrum half Brett Menefy to pick up and score. Kerins added the extras for 19-9 at the break.
In the second half Heath continued to play all the rugby with the visitors’ excursions out of their own half becoming more and more infrequent. Heath’s dominant pack and better line speed snuffed out any Pulborough attack and it wasn’t long before the home side were on the board again. A line out to Heath just inside the Pulborough 22 was well taken by the forwards who then mauled the ball up towards the line before releasing the backline, where centre Jack Lucas cut back on the angle and sliced his way through defenders for a score. Kerins converted for 26-9, a commanding lead in the match with the league bonus point secured.
With Heath continuing to batter away at the Pulborough defence another score was inevitable and after further strong work from the entire pack following a lineout, the ball was moved to midfield where skipper Max Drage was waiting to crash through for the try which was converted by Kerins for 33-9.
Heath could have had more but the energy sapping mud meant that both teams were running on empty by the final whistle. Heath’s win was based on a hard working set of forwards who never took a backwards step and a backline who did the basics well and looked a lot sharper than the previous week - playing a proper “home” match - following two home matches having to be played away - in front of a lively bunch of vocal supporters who had enjoyed a special pre-match lunch sponsored by Inspired Gardens to kick start the year of 60thanniversary celebrations for Heath, was also just what was required to get the side winning again.
The bonus point win in the league takes Heath back up to fourth place and books them a Cup semi-final against last year’s winners Horsham. There is no game next week although the Clubhouse will be open for England v Wales in the RBS 6 Nations on the Big Screen.
Heath 1st XV squad: Sam Beckett, Alex Wolfe, Duncan Liddell (Euan Greaves-Smith), Nick Miller (Dan Shotton), Steve Doku, Wilf Bridges, Max Drage, Nick Main, Brett Menefy, Peter Kerins, Robbie Fotheringham, Jack Lucas, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Henry Warwick (Sam Galbraith)