Superb away win at Eastleigh
Depleted numbers don't stop Heathen's rampaging forwards.
It was a worrying start to the day with only 11 players at the start, luckily we managed to assemble 14 prior to pre-match training getting serious. Not a bad effort considering the recent losses to injury and moving on to another club.
With a borrowed player from Eastleigh the first 20 mins kicked off. It was a bright start with the forwards making ground, most notably Josh, Dom and Oscar. Despite having some good possession by turning ball over at a scrum we couldn’t capitalise and ended up giving a penalty away for a high tackle. Eastleigh made a good touch in our 22 and from the lineout one of their big forwards ran through the defence and scored. Successful conversion, score 7 – 0 to Eastleigh.
Unlike recent games the behind the posts huddle was constructive with no mention of blame for missed tackles etc. This was refreshing to hear and I was hopeful we would soon be back in the game. We didn’t have to wait long either. Heathens chased the kick off well and forced a penalty, which James kicked into their 22. A couple of phases later saw Lewis charge up-field and smash through a few defenders only to lose the ball when going to ground. From the scrum Eastleigh decided to run the ball but a great hit from Oscar dislodged the ball and it was now a Heathen’s scrum just outside the opposition’s 10 metre line. The scrum was not only solid but moving forward and with this advantage Josh picked up and went on a trademark run. He didn’t quite make it to the line but Jake was there in support to take the offload and dive over for our first score out wide. A fantastic conversion from James levelled the scores at 7-7. End of the first third.
The forwards were having the game of their lives now. From the restart Dom ran up-field and then Brian made some good yards before presenting perfectly for the next phase. Unfortunately we lost the ball at the next ruck and then gave away a penalty, which Eastleigh kicked into touch. The lineout throw was poor, and with some quick reactions, Dom snaffled the ball and made some yards before Lewis picked up and went for the line. Unfortunately Lewis was about a foot short of the line and despite Lloyd picking up and diving over he was held up. There was a lovely blindside at the ensuing 5m scrum and with some crafty coaching from Simon, Josh picked up from the base and dived into the corner. James made a good attempt at the conversion but it fell just short, not bad from less than a yard from the touchline. Score was now 12 – 7 to Heathens.
The rest of the second third was a bit scrappy until Fareham held the opposition up in a maul and won the scrum deep in our own 22. Another good scrum allowed James the time to kick way behind the Eastleigh defence and with a good chase we were able to apply pressure and won another scrum. The ball was passed to Jake who spotted some space in the left hand corner and kicked. He chased his own kick and almost picked the ball up but a small knock on stopped him from scoring his second. Still, we had Eastleigh on the ropes with a scrum on their 5m line. A kick to touch gave us a lineout and a lovely pre-planned move saw Jayden given the ball who made his way down the 5m channel with support first from Lewis and then Dom who scored under the posts. This made for an easy conversion for James and the score was now 19 – 7. End of Second third.
The final 20 mins was a thrilling period of rugby. Eastleigh had already told me they were going to experiment at the start but would field their strongest 15 for the final period. We were also given one of Eastleigh’s forwards rather than a back so it was decided that Oscar could go out on the right wing as a bit of fun. The backs were now starting to see some ball and James and Jayden were combining well and making lots of ground. Despite this, Eastleigh were able to take advantage of our mistakes and we would then find ourselves back in our own half. Some crucial tackles from Connor and excellent breakdown work from Lloyd stopped Eastleigh in their tracks and they were getting frustrated. One nice moment came after a high tackle where the offending Eastleigh player and Dom got into a bit of a tussle. The ref had a quick word and asked them to shake hands, which was then followed by a lovely hug. Nice touch Dom! This last period also saw the best tackle of the day. James had kicked up-field and set off in chase. Daniel was putting pressure on the Eastleigh player, who kicked the ball rather than picking up. The ball bounced kindly and he managed to retrieve it about a metre from the touchline. With an almighty thud, James hit him in the mid-rift and knocked him clean off his feet and into touch. The crowd fell silent for a moment but luckily no injuries. Fantastic tackle!
Heathens were definitely the better team but were unable to score; more importantly though, they didn’t concede, despite some tired bodies. It was a fantastic team effort and every player gave their all. The teamwork was the best we’ve seen all year. The forwards were immense and hopefully we can build on this. Special mentions go to Fin who performed really well at scrum half, Jake at fly half, Lewis for showing us what he is really capable of and Lloyd for being a thorn in the side for Eastleigh. I lost count how many times he turned the ball over/ gave away penalties at the breakdown. It’s a fine line but glad to see it being pushed.
James was awarded Player of the Match from Eastleigh and Josh was picked by the Heathen’s coaches for his all round display in the lineout, scrum and general play. To be honest lots of players put their names in the hat for that award today. Also, well done to Will for running the touch line and yes we did see you slip over and fall on your backside!
Training next week and we hope to see as many of you as possible. We have been promised a couple of new players so bring them down. We have a great team and some more numbers will make us stronger!