Heath come 2nd in battle of the mud.
1. Piper 6. Wilby 11 Beever
2. Whitworth 7. Dawes 12 Brown
3. Morley 8. Wheelwright 13 Webb
4. James 9. Cole 14 Wilkinson
5. Milner 10 Reynolds 15 Bruce
Subs: Kerr, Owen, McFadzean
Well if we thought conditions were heavy underfoot the previous week, this was magnified by further poor conditions this week, combined with early morning rain. The match only took place, due to the heroic efforts, of Spud Taylor and his trusty fork, who toiled for nearly 2 hours to allow the standing puddles to drain.
Heath welcomed back Beever from his hamstring injury, sustained against Keighley and were also able to field a full bench, with no call ups needed to the Firsts. Wharfedale themselves had enjoyed a very strong past few weeks, culminating in the defeat of league leaders, West Leeds the previous weekend.
Heath kicked off and ‘Dales pack were immediately on the attack, a great early tackle by Milner, held up the advance but our opponents impressive 10, found good field position 5m out, a tactic employed to great effect throughout the match, to pin Heath back. Heaths lineout was poor, but luckily ‘Dale knocked on and allowed the pressure to be relieved. The respite was not long though, another punt through forcing a 5m scrum to the opposition. Heath defended well winning a penalty, but the kick failed to find touch, and it was time for ‘Dales backs to spread the ball and test our defence again. Winning a penalty for offside, they decided to take the points and the score moved to 0-3.
Webb defended well from the restart, from the resultant knock-on, Bruce had a great run, which Cole recycled chipping through for a chase, Brown and Wilkinson securing a penalty. Cole took the 5m lineout option, but again the lineout was poor, and the ball cleared, the backs attacked and a solo move from Webb, chipping through after a run, saw him ground the ball to the right of the posts, allowing Cole to add the extras. 7-3.
Heath failed to maintain control from the restart, ‘Dale were quick to take advantage and their forward power restored the lead almost straight away, the conversion was added 7-8. For some reason Heaths heads went down, although there was still time in the first and the whole of the 2nd half to go. Morley and Dawes were replaced by Kerr and McFadzean to try and stem the forward power.
This seemed to have worked for the next 10-15 minutes where the game was a case of attrition in the middle of the pitch, both sides kits becoming, to some extent ,merged into one. James, supporting a head bandage from the previous weeks injury, Kerr and Piper gave as good as they got, in trying to batter their opposite numbers, allowing Milner and Wheelwright some opportunities to break the line, but to no avail.
‘Dale taking advantage of another penalty, released an overlapping team member, who then managed to spin out of a despairing tackle to cross again, the conversion was missed 7-15.
Reynolds, took a leaf out of ‘Dales book and took a great kick, which was expertly picked up by Brown, but was then lost forward in the tackle. Heath started to lose their discipline, first giving away a penalty and then gifting another 10m for dissent (one of two occurrences in the match). Heath defended the lineout well, and the official blew for half time
Dave Harrison took the half time team talk and asked for more aggression and focus on simple moves.
From the restart Whitworth, popping up on the wing, just put a foot in touch as he attempted a run, Heath pressed again with Wilkinson jinking through several tackles to give good position, Cole again taking the chance to chip through, the covering ‘Dale back managed a kick to halfway. Bruce, collecting a high kick, chased his own kick and won a penalty, again the ball stayed in play from the kick, but Brown popped the ball into the 22, with the chasing backs, the ‘Dale clearance went straight into touch.
Heath secured the restart, driving forward, Heath were awarded a series of penalties, from the last one choosing the scrum, when only 5-6m out. Heath drove their opponents back but were then penalised for apparently pulling down, allowing ‘Dale to clear again.
Dawes replaced Whitworth
Owen replaced James
With the conditions worsening, handling errors seem to be affecting Heath more than the opposition, whose No 10 was now running the game from the centre of the park. The constant chasing back was starting to wear Heath down, and Reynolds tried his upmost to do the same, however it was not to be, executing another great move in the centre, the opposition back evaded several weary tackles to cross under the posts, for another converted score. 7-22
The crowd sensed that the match was going away from us, but encouraged Heath for a strong ten minutes. With spirits raised, Beever had a great run then kick through, Brown collected and was seemingly felled, but with Dawes on his shoulder waiting for a pop pass, he managed to regain his feet and pop over for the score, which Cole converted well 14-22
Could Heath come back in the final minutes, requiring 2 scores it seemed a tough ask, but they showed great effort in taking the game back to ‘Dale. Cole kicked to the 22 and the drive was held up by the Heath pack resulting in a scrum, they then won a penalty and the ball was spread to Bruce who kicked through and seemed to have grounded the ball over the line. To the crowd’s dismay, the official said he had been unsighted instead giving a scum 5m to Heath, which seemed at odds with the two possible outcomes. Dale managed to see out the rest of what had been a great effort from both sides, deservingly being at the top end of the league. Heaths 3rd defeat on the bounce was hard to take but the team regroup and go into next weeks home game against Rishworthians keen to get the season back on track.