Heath had much of the game against Chichester, but two quick second half tries from the visitors proved decisive.
Both sides fielded below-strength line ups: Heath due to injuries and unavailabilities and Chi resting players due to an imminent Sussex Trophy game next Wednesday. Nevertheless, with Heath lying in the bottom half of the table and Chi in fourth place, the home side were the clear underdogs. However, the first half of the game suggested the tables might be turned.
Playing with a stiff breeze, Chi were quick to take the lead from a first minute penalty slotted comfortably by Jamie Knowles. In territory and possession most of the remainder of the half belonged to Heath. Although leading the league for much of the season, Chi had recently slipped to fourth place and, probably, out of promotion contention. Their despondency was evident in a lack-lustre performance. Heath however, although wobbling a little in the early scrums and line outs, got their act together quickly, creating a series of scoring opportunities as they ran the ball at Chi with spirit and vigour. Scrum half, Matt Walsh was to the fore on his return from university with a typically feisty display; Will Murrills, returning from four months in Singapore, looked sharp. Richard Pothecary, Josh Salisbury and Dan Fergusson all took the ball up well, aided by accurate line kicking from Rob Jackson. Strong last ditch defence, a couple of poor decisions with ball in hand and too much turned over ball in critical positions, left Heath scoreless until the 28th minute. Tim Thorstensen opened the game up from deep inside his 22 with slick interpassing taking the ball close to the Chi line on the right hand side. A quickly taken tap penalty from 5 metres and Thorstensen was over in the corner. Jackson couldn’t add the extras, but Heath were 5-3 ahead. Chi then came back into the game, looking dangerous with ball in hand as they drove the ball upfield. Hard-earned territory gave them two penalty chances with Knowles knocking them both over for a 9-5 half time lead that could easily have been the other way round and more.
Heath pressed early in the second half but, following a missed Heath penalty, Chi found the resolve to take the ball to Heath mainly through experienced number 8 Moses Kasuja. A ten minute Chi purple patch saw a driven 5 metre line out and second row Reece Cavozzi under the pile of bodies. Five minutes later and missed tacklers along the right hand touchline allowed Chi to make swift progress. Centre Richard Deed was on hand to finish under the posts, with Knowles adding the points for a 21-5 lead. And that’s how it stayed for the remainder of the game. With scrums gong uncontested as Chi ran out of front row forwards and Heath’s Fergusson and Chi’s Polehill spending the final minutes on the bin, the game ended where most of the final quarter had been spent - in midfield.
Heath can be reasonably satisfied with a spirited first half display against their local rivals. They will though rue the missed opportunities that could have turned the game and the latter part of the season. With Portsmouth and Trojans winning, Heath could do with another win and the additional bonus point at Sutton & Epsom on April 14th to secure their mid table position. Fifth from bottom with just two games remaining and others pressing is not where Heath want to be.
Richard Pothecary Dan Fergusson, 60), Huw Jenkins (capt.), Chris Turner (Rob Printemps, 50), Sam Hill, Dan Shotton, Dan Fergusson, Josh Salisbury, Nick Main, Matt Walsh, Rob Jackson (Nick Francis, 55), Marc Cashman, Greg Jackson, Dom Fry, Will Murrills, Tim Thorstensen