This was the final league game of the season for both teams and whilst pride was at stake for Heath Colts, a league winner’s medal was the prize if victory went the way of Hastings & Bexhill.
Heath started strongly and signalled their intent to play competitive rugby and not make a championship victory straightforward for their opposition. The wind was strong and in Heath’s favour for the first 40 minutes and they should have been 5 points up early on, however a knock on by Heath enabled Hastings & Bexhill to distribute the ball quickly out to their right wing and race down the line to within 5 metres of Heath’s try line. Heath were subsequently penalised for not releasing the ball and a penalty was awarded to Hastings which was not converted.
As you would expect at this level and with so much at stake for one of the teams, the first half was at times a prickly affair with the referee having to talk to both captains about certain aspects of their play (namely not releasing the ball after the tackle) and also player reaction to his decisions.
Hastings showed some good quick ball handling and for a period were the dominant side, whilst Heath were unable to capitalise on having the wind behind them. Ten minutes from half time, Heath captain Tom George limped off having received a dead leg that left him almost unable to walk. Heath regrouped under the leadership of George Harris and after some fine running by Matt Cleary and San Gedrych, the ball found the safe hands of powerhouse Elliot Ward who thundered over the line for Heath’s first try. Whilst going into the break five points ahead would have been the perfect end to a scrappy first half, it was not to be as Hastings responded quickly and levelled the score at 5-5 just before the whistle.
With the second half underway, Heath came out the stronger team. A good strong scrum throughout the match and good strong running from Heath’s forwards allowed Ward to scramble towards the line, and with two Hastings players on his back he somehow managed to get his hand (with ball) over the line for his second try of the game. Brilliant play. A successful conversion extended the score to
5-12. Hastings and Bexhill, clearly at home in more ways than one with the wind now behind them used it to their advantage time and time again, kicking down the pitch often resulting in white line play on the Heath try line for several minutes at a time. Despite Heath’s strong defence, there was an air of inevitability about Hastings second try, and a nicely placed ball just off centre meant a relatively straight forward conversion levelling the game at 12 points each.
Hastings and Bexhill had one eye on the game and one eye on promotion, but Heath had not finished; despite conceding a try it was Heath Colts who were looking the stronger and looking for a win. A good Heath restart which bounced back towards the rejuvenated captain Tom George meant possession was regained and a penalty awarded for another ‘failure to release’. Haywards Heath’s Seb Moore weaved through a tiring defence, broke away from five Hastings players and dived across the line; and with another excellent successful conversion the final score was 12–19.
A splendid victory for Haywards Heath Colts and a great way to end the season. Colts Coach Simon Stoddart said after the game “This was a great combative victory by the boys today, the squad has come a long way from the handful of boys that turned up to pre-season training to a squad that have beaten and drawn with the top two teams in the league. This is down to the hard work, commitment & camaraderie shown by all the boys and their ‘never say die’ attitude to every game. I am very proud of them all”.
Anyone interested in joining Haywards Heath Rugby Club should visit www.HHRFC.co.uk for further information. Haywards Heath Colts train on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings at Whitemans Green.