Heathfield & Waldron III 10
St Leonards Cinque Ports 12 (HT 5-5)
Ports found themselves quickly organising a game away to Heathfield, after league opposition Horsham cancelled at the last minute.
Despite Ports being a league above, a strong Heathfield team were clearly prepared for the challenge. The early moments were a midfield scrap, Tom Ingram and George Upton made important tackles but their back row counterparts also placed them under pressure.
As a result neither side put together cohesive possession. James Daniels carried well, and worked tidily at the tackle. Mickey Scriven also carried well but defences were clearly on top.
Spilled ball meant the scrummage was a key battle. Daniels and Nick Giles both anchored well against a strong Heathfield pack. Upton was also a nuisance at the line out claiming Heathfield’s ball. When Ports organised coherent phases they trundled up field.
Ingram and Upton came close, before the ball was shifted through the hands from a secure scrum for Luke Barningham to dive over.
Ports had to put in strong defence at the line too, Daniels, Upton and Giles all held ball carriers up. Ashley Mountain found space, the big forward was dangerous throughout with ball in hand.
Heathfield controlled the game in patches, and a quick penalty saw them tie the game.
When Heathfield were pressing again Ross Kearney and Barningham kicked the ball upfield. Barningham was denied his second try as the ball bobbled forward as he dived over.
The game degenerated into an arm wrestle, with neither side breaking into the opposition half. Ports made a number of changes, and Neil Davie and Paul Smart gave them go forward. A pass from Smart freed Kearney but the Irish centre could not find a telling final pass.
Smart unleashed a dangerous kicking game, this gave Ports greater territory but Heathfield were still dangerous and Rob Mayer and Giles made key tackles in the wide channels.
Despite Scriven and Mountain both carrying well the midfield battle ensued. Heathfield worked the width well and took a 10-5 lead with 20 minutes to go.
Ports showed greater composure. Ingram drove the ball strongly, debutant Harley Button made yards. A punchy Ingram drive created space and Colin Whyte showed real pace to find a gap and push through a week tackle. Smart slotted the conversion.
Ports began to look more dangerous an Upton kick return was unlucky not to result in a try and missed opportunities from scrums meant Ports couldn’t find the match defining score. Despite this Davie and Luke Loving-Price made some key tackles and after a raft of penalties by both sides and a Heathfield yellow card the game ended as it had begun with a midfield battle.
Coach Smart outlined where the game was won, he said: “We faced a very strong Heathfield team, who had the best of the first half, our changes at half-time turned our fortunes for a well-deserved win”.
A number of players pushed themselves forwards for honours. Button made an impact on his arrival, as did the sparky Davie and Smart with his kicking game but the E-Heat man of the match was James Daniels for his tireless work and set-piece power.
15 L Barningham (Whitehill-James) 14 Mayer (Steele) 13 Kearney (Button) 12 Standen (Loving-Price) 11 Warman 10 Hutchins (Smart) 9 Hall (Davie) 1 Daniels 2 Thomas (Whyte) 3 Giles 4 C Barningham (Wan) 5 Mountain (Storey) 6 Scriven 7 Upton 8 Ingram