A newly-appointed home coach was looking to turn things around, with the level of background noise from the Kent side throughout the game suggesting they were very much up for it. Unfortunately, illness and injury took their toll and Heath took the field without five of the first choice starting line up. Injuries to Ed Bowden
and Rob Jackson
causing their withdrawal mid way through the game compounded the problem. With Beckenham sitting below Heath in the table, this was a game Heath knew they could and should win. Even without key players that remains the case.
On five minutes Heath drew first blood. Scrum half Nick Francis broke through from outside the 22, running through a wall of opposition to touch down under the posts. Rob Jackson
converted to put Heath 7-0 ahead. The game was fairly even for the next few minutes before Beckenham won a lineout on the Heath five metre line driving over for their first try. With Heath declining to take the easy options of putting the ball into the corners and playing from there, Beckenham came into the game, posting their second try on twenty minutes to put them into the lead for the first time. Winning the ball just over the half way line, a gap appeared opening up space for right wing BJ Tarbie to steam away at speed for a touchdown in the corner and a 10-7 lead. Heath pushed back and placed them under sustained pressure. Sam Drage
’s excellent run put Heath in promising territory and, from a five metre line out, a catch and drive saw Drage under a pile of bodies for a well-deserved score and a 12-10 lead.
This game was being pulled in both directions. Just when Heath felt they were beginning to get the measure of Beckenham, they were stung by another try. The Kent side held possession for a couple of phases with a clean break and strong support finishing with a try near the posts. Thirty minutes in and the score was 17-12 to Beckenham. And so it remained until half time. There was little between the sides and the game was still there for the taking for either.
Playing upslope, the second half started poorly for Heath. Just two minutes in and Beckenham were on the attack again. They rolled a maul close to the line but, finding no way past a solid Heath defence, spun the ball wide for a score on the right. Their lead extended ten minutes later with a penalty taking the score to 25-12.
Credit to Heath; they knew that, even with a thirteen point deficit, the game was still winnable. The remaining quarter of the game was all Heath as they mounted wave after attacking wave. Conceding a series of red zone penalties, the view of most spectators was that the home side were fortunate to escape without a yellow card and/or a penalty try but, with Heath now dominant in the set piece, Heath managed to push over the line with Nick Main the man to ground the ball. No conversion, but the gap narrowed to 25-17. Heath continued to press and with five minute left on the clock a Beckenham prop was yellow carded for a punch. Heath continued to press and, on 39 minutes, Robbie Fotheringham
scored in the corner - his first for Heath - after a couple of chips from the Heath backline. Heath continued to look for the elusive winning score but, with Jack Lucas
pulled down in full flight, the final whistle blew and time had run out.
It was a disappointing loss, but a losing bonus point plus a second bonus point for the four tries came as some consolation. Even more came from the knowledge that a weakened side played with real commitment and could so easily have tipped the balance.
Heath will be looking forward to next week’s home game against a strong Sidcup side (KO 2.30 p.m.). They will need to be at strength and on the ball to squeeze out a win.
), Chris Turner (capt), Richard Pothecary
, Dan Shotton
, Tom Buns, Josh Salisbury, Sam Drage
, Ed Bowden
( Nick Main), Nick Francis, Jack Lucas
, Marc Cashman
, Gareth Quay
, Robbie Fotheringham
, Rob Jackson