Although weakened by injuries, Heath were competitive in the first half but their opponent’s conditioning, power and continuity of play took them into a decisive lead at the final whistle. There were though, plenty of positives.
Early pressure from the visitors yielded a first score on six minutes. Impressive number 8 Will Ford picked up from a scrum on Heath’s 22 and fed right wing Gareth Kelly – the league’s top try scorer - who scudded over in the corner, Although Heath exerted pressure back, a couple of untidy line out balls allowed Basingstoke back into the game. A quick strike by Heath from a scrum 10 metres from their own line saw the ball squirt away with scrum half Jamie Fish picking up unopposed for the second try. Again, no conversion. Heath once again bounced back with generally solid scrummaging, greater certainty on their own line out ball and searching running from Murrills, Fry, Jenkins and Harle. Disappointing execution in finishing and a robust Basingstoke defence kept Heath at bay and, close to half time, the visitors stretched the lead. With their powerful forwards pushing the ball upfield they were held short in the red zone, where, from a final ruck, it was Fish who again picked up to fall over the line from a metre out. Drew Humberstone added the points for a 17-0 half time lead – probably a little flattering in a half in which honours were even but the visitors took their chances, as good sides do.
The second half more clearly belonged to Basingstoke although Heath had opportunities and were first to score. Prop Chris Turner, intercepted on the home 22, drove the ball upfield at pace and found support which spun the ball wide. Prolific try scorer Al Harle received the scoring pass on the visitor’s 22 and finished speedily for a try in the corner. 17-5 down and with optimism running high, Heath’s hopes were dashed within two minutes. A driven line out and a spin to the right and full back Andy Flower was in the line to finish off. Five minutes later with Basingstoke moving the ball from deep through several pairs of hands, Ford received the ball 30 metres out to slice through under the posts. Humberstone added the extras for a 29-5 lead. With Turner picking up a yellow card for tackling without the ball, Heath did well to survive the next ten minutes without conceding another score but could not hold out in the last ten minutes of the game. With Basingstoke driving close from a series of scrums and rucks near the Heath line, second row Steve Drawbridge powered over for a close range try, again converted by Humberstone and in injury time, the ball went wide with Ford in support for his second try and a final score of 41-5.
Heath had their moments with Harle, Turner, Drage, Main and Jenkins always taking the ball up and Fry and Murrills asking questions outside. Basingstoke were, however, the better side and fully deserved their win. Heath will look forward to taking them on again next season when the visitors should be pushing for promotion. Heath could be there with them if they can strengthen a little, keep free of injury and take a greater proportion of the chances they create. With the 1s secure in London 1 South, the 2s joining Sussex 1 and the 3s in Sussex 3, it should be a good, competitive season.
Team Chris Turner, Huw Jenkins
(capt), Richard Pothecary
, 40) Sam Hill (Max Drage
, 60) Dan Fergusson
, Al Harle, Sam Drage
, Nick Main, Nick Francis, Tim Thorstensen (Rob Jackson
, 65), Sam Galbraith
, Marc Cashman
, Dom Fry
, Will Murrills
, Matt Walsh