Heathfield & Waldron II 31
St Leonards Cinque Ports 15
Ports took a large squad to their first league game of the season, but a number of players were carrying significant injuries which meant there was a need for rotation throughout the match.
The early exchanges promised a lot for Ports. Ashley Mountain and Rob Mayer made strong runs that required sturdy defence but the strength of the Heathfield side was obvious when a loose kick found their fleet footed full-back who scampered in for a stunning try.
Ports pushed back, Paul Smart unleashing his kicking game. Mayer and skipper Murray Warman were ferocious at the breakdown throughout and their work led to a kicked penalty by Luke Barningham.
Ross Kearney and Will Steele both came close, with Steele making a stunning 75 metre run after fielding a kick but Heathfield used their frightening pace out wide to score a number of tries.
Heathfield clearly had their tails up but massive tackles from Warman and Chopper Gooders drove them back. When Ports did get into Heathfield territory they caused problems, Tom Ingram smashed into the defence while Gooders was a dancing presence.
Steele again came close after some good close work by Smart but a fortuitous strip led to another try and a significant lead at half-time.
Ports made a number of changes, the first of whom Dale Whittington was abrasive and caused an early turn-over. Heathfield were now pinned back, Whittington and Ingram made strong tackles and Steele was now dominating the wide channels.
From a Ports scrum Smart found Henry Hill who’s clever flick pass found Steele. The scotsman dived over in the corner.
Ports found dominance in the set piece, Nick Giles anchoring the scrum and driving Ports forward. Whittington also gave aerial power at the line out. From a scrum Hill fixed the defence and threaded the pass to Gooders who angled his run perfectly to score a second Ports try. Barningham slotted the conversion.
At this point Ports felt an unlikely comeback was on. Ingram was a power runner, and Steele unleashed a number of challenging kicks. Heathfield began to leak penalties and Matt Standen, Mountain and Whittington all surged at the line but the defence would not break.
The game ended with the impetus in Ports’ favour but not the score. Coach Smart captured the improvement in Ports’ season saying: “We started today better than we finished last week and we ended today better than we started.
“Up against one of the strongest Heathfield sides we have faced too many early errors cost us the game”.
A number of players stood out, Josh Storey was at his usual hard working best, Hill offered some real creativity and Mayer was a bruising aggressive presence but E-Heat Man of the Match was awarded to Will Steele who continued his fantastic start to the season with an all action performance including a superbly taken try.
Squad : 15 Gooders 14 Steele 13 Loving-Price (Whittington) 12 Kearney (Standen) 11 L Barningham 10 Hill 9 Smart (Hutchins) 1 Berhane (Giles) 2 Wright (Thomas) 3 Whyte (Kearney) 4 Storey 5 Mountain 6 Mayer 7 Warman 8 Ingram (C Barningham)