Darts travelled to Heathfield on a cold and wet day
Darts travelled to Heathfield on a cold and wet day hoping that the wet heavy pitch wouldn't stop their unbeaten run. Darts started well going through their phases quite comfortably but it was the home side who had the first opportunity to score but the penalty went slightly wide. The conditions were very difficult for both teams but it was still an open game with each side trying to move the ball. Heathfield used the box kick but Joe Scott who has only recently moved to full back was very comfortable under the high ball and made good ground both counterattacking and with the boot. When he had put the ball inside the home half Darts had a great lineout and when the ball was popped inside to Sam Cooksley he nmade good ground before passing to Ryan Chandler who was well tackled 2 yards from the line. The referee was forced to give a penalty try as the retreating home players stopped a try scoring pass. Heathfield also received a yellow card. With a man short Heathfield now had to work really hard but when they conceded a penalty Darts went for the lineout and their driving maul was pretty strong and eventually it was Louis Chapman who put the ball down and with Jonny converting the score was 0-14. Darts were strong in both the scrum and lineout and when they pushed the home scrum back it looked like a turnover but the home number 8 and scrum half did exceptionally well to keep control of thee ball and move it to their centre who went on a strong run through a number of tackles to score and close the gap to 5-14. Both sides were putting on a great show despite the tough conditions and the visitors were taking the ball up close before moving it wide to try and outflank the defence however the home side were defending really well and keeping the league leaders at bay. When frustration took over the home side were given another yellow card when one of their forwards kicked the ball out of the back of the ruck when Darts were getting a good flow to their game. Darts smelt blood and put together some great phases of play alternating tight and wider drives before moving the ball out to the backs. Great play by Ashley Hadler saw him find space before popping a pass to Joe Scott who went over in the corner. 5-19. The first half ended with Darts on top but they had been made to work really hard in attack by a committed home defence as well as having to defend well themselves when Heathfield took the ball on in their forwards. They went through many phases but came up against our usual really solid tackling where the players refused to give the opposition easy yards.
The second half started well for Darts with a 30 yard driving maul which surprisingly ended up with Heathfield being awarded a penalty which gave the home side a bit of confidence and they started to have a real go at the visitors line but again the solid Darts defence kept them out. Darts used the conditions well in the second half using the boot of Jonny Regnier to make great ground turning the home team around each time. Great chasing pressure kept Heathfield pinned in their own half and despite their defence holding up they found it difficult to clear their lines. Although both sides still continued to try and play good attacking rugby it appeared that the visitors were slightly fitter and able to put more pressure on any attacks turning over the ball or forcing mistakes. darts managed to get bot Ashley and Liam Brencher a lot of ball on the wings but the conditions underfoot made it difficult to change direction or get any acceleration and combining that with solid tackling the score remained the same. Darts having made replacements and Liam Bowmer and Matt Randall were soon in the game taking the ball at the opposition. As both teams were tiring Darts started to keep the ball tighter as they strove to get the bonus point 4th try and they had a strong spell where they had many scrums in front of the posts. Being in the ascendancy in this area of the field with props Mike Young and Louis Chapman, ably supported by Cookers, it was only a matter of time before something would break. In the end following 3 penalties for infringements at the scrum and with the Darts pack just about to go over the referee again had no option but to award a second penalty try when the Heathfield forwards killed the ball. 5-26. Darts made their final substitution bringing on" Kim Yung" Bill Wilson at hooker who added his strength to an already comfortable pack. The match ended with a good bonus point win for the team to continue their quest for promotion. A tough game against a side who never gave up and had their moments in the match. When the score was 5-14 they had an opportunity to score which would have made things interesting but they were not quite clinical enough whereas darts have found the way to kill teams off at critical moments in games. An entertaining match where both sets of players should be praised for coping with really tough conditions and providing the cold spectators with some great rugby. Yet again Heathfield provided great hospitality to make the day even better
All the Darts players put in a really good shift with some excellent performances but the Player of the Match was given to skipper Si Briggs who led from the front making not only a large number of great tackles but was always in position to take the ball on to tie in the opposition which he did throughout the match.