Heath U16s got to taste life as a Colt in preparation for next season and benefit from some extra motivation before a crunch league match against Pulborough.
The squad trained last Thursday evening alongside Ross Chisholm and his senior coaching team, witnessing the 1st XV squad in action and benefitting from insights into their own game prior to the U16s fixture against Pulborough.
With a particularly strong cross wind at Whitemans Green, Heath kicked off playing down the slope but it was Pulborough who settled the quicker of the two sides, with Heath hardly touching the ball for the first 10 minutes.
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However, Heath have only conceded an average of five points per game this season and, with this enviable defence record, Heath held firm, soaking up the early Pulborough pressure until they found their feet.
Once Heath got their hands on the ball they immediately looked threatening and it was prop Daniel Grant who showed an excellent turn of pace to burst clear down the touchline from about 35 yards out and then delivered the first score, taking the Pulborough full back over the line with him. The conversion from out wide into the wind slid past the posts and the score stood at 5-0.
This helped settle the Heath side and they started to challenge the Pulborough try line on a more regular basis. James Watson spotted a gap in the Pulborough defence on 14 minutes, and his pace off the mark enabled him to exploit this space to score Heath’s second try close to the posts. William Goodwin was successful with the conversion to take the score to 12-0.
There then followed a 10 minute period where neither side was able to dominate and the Heath forwards were a little passive off the line in defence. However, Ellis Dubois was able to calm any Heath nerves by crashing over after 25 minutes for Heath’s third try taking the score to a dominant 17-0 and it was not yet half time.
This appeared to suck some of the fight out of Pulborough and Ben Eustace crossed for two further tries, with one of them being converted. With the score standing at 29-0 at the break and the valuable fourth try bonus point secured, the challenge was to make sure Heath remained focus since Pulborough were clearly a dangerous side and any sign of complacency would play right into their hands.
With seven half time changes to give all of the squad game time, Pulborough took full advantage to score shortly after the interval when a kick through was allowed to land, rather than be taken in the air. A kind bounce for the Pulborough scrum half meant he could scamper clear from about 30 yards to score under the posts. The successful conversion took the score to 29-7 and Pulborough were on the scoreboard and back in the game.
Heath responded immediately as replacement prop Adrian Illes was able to use his immense strength to crash over from about 15 yards, leaving a couple of Pulborough tacklers in his wake. Goodwin was next to score for Heath with 10 minutes of the second half played, showing his usual searing pace to outflank the Pulborough defence from 40 yards out making the score 39-7.
Three minutes later George Creavy secured another try for Heath and Goodwin was successful with the conversion to take the score on to 46-7. Heath then relaxed with the game seemingly won and some uncharacteristic mistakes allowed a Pulborough attacker to waltz through the Heath defence from about 30 yards out. This deserved second score took Pulborough’s points tally to 14.
However, there was still time for Heath to respond and with 10 minutes remaining, a lucky bounce and some clever footwork from Christian Streater saw him sprint clear of the Pulborough defensive line and complete his 40 yard run with a spectacular try. Goodwin kicked the extras and the score moved on to 53-14 which is how the scoreboard stood at the final whistle.
An excellent performance and just reward for the numerous carries by the forwards and some exquisite handling by the backs. Every single Heath player in the squad of 22 contributed to the win and Man of the Match was Matt Cains playing on the wing where his numerous carries, yardage gained and defenders beaten impressed the coaches from both sides.
Next week’s league title decider was somewhat curtailed when news arrived that Crowborough had beaten Heathfield - the only other side in the league that could have overhauled Heath’s leading position. Therefore, Heath U16s have already won the league with a game to spare. However, the coaches and the squad will want to ensure that the job this season is finished off properly with another win next weekend and an unbeaten league record to their name.