Gordon Denslow has revealed the pre-game rallying call which helped Haywards Heath take a massive step towards National League survival.

The stand-in skipper led his team to a stirring 22-12 win at home to Weston-super-Mare, despite playing with 14 men from the 28th minute following the dismissal of prop Darren Shadbolt.

They were 5-0 down after playing into the gale before half-time, then turned the game on its head with 15 points, including two Henry Goodburn tries, in a stunning eight-minute spell.

The backs got the points, with James Mackie scoring the clinching late try and Stuart Charnley keeping his footing to add two conversions and a penalty, but success was also down to a fantastic display by the pack, a clever piece of quick thinking from coach Steve Heaton and that pre-game team talk.

As a result, Heath are now three points clear of the division three south drop zone, effectively four when points difference is taken into account.

Denslow, who led the side after Alex Meredith had second thoughts about making a premature return from injury, said; "We've all been in positions at the end of the season where we've thought 'If only we had done this or that'.

"I told the players we were in a position where it was in our own hands. It was 'Let's go out there and do something about it now'.

"Conditions were extremely difficult and it was important to keep the score relatively low in the first half to give ourselves a chance.

"Once we got in front we didn't think we were going to lose the game."

Meredith grabbed his deputy at the final whistle, gave him a hug and said: "Well skippered."

Denslow, though, insists no one will be celebrating yet. He said: "We are too wise to do that but it was a huge result for us."

Shadbolt's red card, for allegedly throwing a punch, came on the say-so of a touch judge and led to some tactical improvisation from Heaton.

The coaching textbook says teams going a man down should ensure they are not outnumbered in the backs.

That is why the initial call was for flanker Dave Wattam to leave the field when Heath were forced to send on replacement prop Richard Swain.

Heaton, though, realised the ball was rarely going to be spread wide at pace in the muddy conditions, sent Wattam back on and sacrificed right wing Hugh Griffin.

It was a wise move. Although Weston worked an overlap within two minutes of Shadbolt's exit for George Sparks to score the only points of the first half, Heath retained their advantage up front. They scrummaged strongly, got plenty of lineout ball as Denslow unerringly picked out his jumpers and were forceful in the loose.

Jon Salisbury, John Lake and Wattam repeatedly committed two or three men as they hurled themselves at tacklers, Damien Lyall was a handful and then there were the little extras, such as a tackle by prop Adrian Cassidy on James Reid or a charge by Dave Atkin, throwing dummies and taking on defenders, which led directly to scores.

Charnley fired over a penalty after Cassidy's tackle had put Weston in trouble, then Atkin's run was carried on by forwards and backs before Goodburn saw half a gap and plunged over triumphantly.

When Jon Graham produced another astute tactical kick to send the ball across field, Goodburn was able to gather, kick ahead again and touch down for superb finish.

Charnley goaled from near the touchline for 15-5 and Mackie's finish after sustained pressure rounded things off, rendering Andrew Glen's late try irrelevant.

Heath can now clinch safety by winning away to Tabard, the team who gave them their first National League lesson when they won at Whitemans on the opening day.

Heath are streetwise now. They have won four out of five at home since Christmas and look the part at this level. They should get a chance to make further progress next season.

l Hastings and Bexhill held on for a 29-21 win over Seaford in a thrilling final of the Greene King Sussex Shield at Lewes yesterday.

Tries from Paul Sandeman, Rob Sparks, Kit Claughton and Tom Brampton did the damage.