In early Autumn sunshine and a stiffening breeze, Heath U16s took to the field for a three set friendly against A League Hove.
Heath started strongest, dominating the set piece - primarily the scrum - and with the intention to move the ball wide against a Hove team operating a strong drift defence. Switching the ball back to the forwards saw James Watson barrel over from four yards out taking Heath 5-0 up after 7 minutes - into the breeze Tom Wharton was unlucky not to convert.
Some sloppy defence at the restart allowed Hove straight back into the game.
Heath quickly realised they needed to tighten things up and get back to basics but were a little slow to the breakdown and Hove were able to counter and disrupt at the rucks. The first 20 minutes ended 5 points each.
SEE ALSO Impressive winning start to the season for Heath boosted by new Clubhouse plans | Heath RFC volunteer recognised with award | Video: Ross Chisholm returns to re-energise Heath RFC
Introducing a number of planned changes, Heath restarted well applying pressure on Hove. Tom Roberts executed a deft kick and chase out of the Heath 22 and then Tom Wharton took over with his pace and footballing skills to dribble into the 22 and touch down under the posts.
The conversion was missed and Heath were 10-5 up. A few minutes later, Heath were again guilty of a loss of concentration as Hove moved the ball wide and were able to squeak into the corner. The score remained 10-10 at the end of the second session.
Roll on the third session and more changes as Heath tried to push on for the win - 7 minutes in and Mat Cains was able to demonstrate his speed and strength with the time and space to power around his wing and dot down near the posts. Will Goodwin duly converted and Heath were 17-10 ahead. Again Heath went to sleep from the restart – a harsh call enabled Hove to build from the ensuing penalty and score making it 17-15.
Hove were reenergised and quickly added another try to make it 17-20 with time running out.
However Heath U16s showed their determination and the pack kept hammering away at a very good Hove defence. With less than a minute to go three strong phases from the tireless Heath forwards provided Mitch Day with space on the left wing which he duly exploited showing a clean pair of heels to dive over in the corner. Goodwin's conversion dropped just short but the match was won 22-20.
Heath learnt a few lessons, particularly about protecting the ball immediately after scoring, but there were plenty of positives to build on. Scrums were extremely solid but lineouts need more work, especially in defence, and the backs need to hunt in packs rather than become isolated even when showing off their impressive speed.
If Heath U16s learn lessons from every match this season and work hard on the areas that need improvement, this team can go a long way. It was great to see the heart and determination from each and every one of the squad and the commitment to keep going to the final minute meant that the team secured a well-deserved win.
Heath Under 16s welcome new players at any time and all Heath mini and junior age groups from under 6 to under 16 are training at Whitemans Green every Sunday in September. If you would like to join see www.hhrfc.co.uk for more details.