Heath beats Park at last gasp
This was a full-blooded confrontation and Haywards Heath greeted their last play winning try with great delight – it puts them firmly in the box seat for a play off place at least, and with almost a month without a game they must have been champing at the bit.
Charlton Park, battle-weary after barely a day off since the new year, had gone into the lead with ten minutes left of a topsy-turvy match after a penalty try, but had a penalty reversed in the last seconds and Heath to their credit took maximum advantage, breaking through some half-hearted defence to score under the posts.
Although they were full of commitment Park thoughts are also understandably on the forthcoming cup encounter with Old Colfeians and their hopes for that took a mighty blow after half an hour when influential back row Jake Conway hobbled off with a serious knee injury .
It just added further disappointment to a day when they could have some reason for suspecting they did not quite get the rub of the green, but that is not to take anything away from a determined performance from their visitors, clearly focused on promotion.
Park, in fact, played well, particularly in the second half when their scrum dominance began to get some reward and as Luke Boyns established dominance in the line out, aided by Adam Neale’s throwing. Skipper Terry Read was less forgiving, however, demanding more from the defence after some promising recent displays.
The visitors took the lead early on with a try which was initiated just when Charlton appeared on the verge of scoring themselves. A hand blocked a pass, possibly a scoring pass, but it was deemed backwards and Heath scooped up the loose ball and went almost the length of the field.
Park’s equalising try came from a clever piece of winger’s finishing from Vaki Antoniou, leaving a trail of would-be tacklers in his wake as he swerved and drove to the corner.
A pushover awarded to Rob Saunderson put Park in front but a glaring defensive mistake guarding a ruck let flanker Josh Salisbury run through unaffected to give the visitors a narrow 12-10 half-time lead.
Charlton Park were suffering under the whistle and a penalty extended the visitors’ lead, but as the half progressed they got themselves back into the game and the penalty try from a series of scrums in front of the posts was a final reward for a period of time when the Heath scrum was put through the mincer. It put Park back in front, and they looked to be heading for a win until that final-minute mayhem.
Charlton will be licking their wounds, both physically and mentally. They have suffered last- minute losses already this season but this is the nature of a league where teams are so evenly matched. Next week we look forward to a bumper crowd for what will be a very exciting, and probably nail-bitingly close, encounter. Just make sure you wash your hands afterwards.