Hard work of it, but a good win in the end.
Heath travelled to Woodhead with a full strength side to take on local rivals Old Brodleians who were hoping to prevent a hat trick of losses following home defeats to Scarborough and Middlesbrough in recent weeks. Heath were looking for the double, after disposing of Brods back in October 29-10, and were looking to pick up vital league points in their quest to maintain the pressure on the top three clubs.
In superb sunny conditions Heath kicked off down the slope and quickly got into gear as they ran in a brilliant opening try and added two penalties to lead 11-0 after 20 minutes as Brods struggled to keep the visitors at bay. The try came after only 5 minutes of play when, from a scrum, Peter Birkett picked up the ball and fed an on-rushing Ezra Hinchliffe. He released Eddie Cartwright who powered down the field and his pass to Jordan Bradbrook saw the centre halted 15 metres from the home sides try-line. Richard Brown was in support and Cam Ramsden received the ball before releasing Birkett to go over for a try in the bottom corner and Heath led 5-0. Brods were struggling with the pace of the game and gave away a penalty and Ezra Hinchliffe obliged to push the score to 8-0. The home side fought back into the game but missed an easy chance to get on the scoreboard from a penalty when Jason Merrie was penalised for a high tackle after 14 minutes. From the re-start Heath pummelled the home defence and when Callum Harriett-Brown, Cartwright and Jack Crabtree linked well Brods gave away another penalty which Hinchliffe converted and a score of 11-0. Brods had to re-group and when Jack Crabtree was sin-binned they took advantage scoring a converted try after 26 minutes to pull the score back to 11-7. Brods continued to take advantage of Heath being a man down and it came as no surprise to see them take the lead 12-11 on 30 minutes with an unconverted try in the corner. Chris Piper came off the bench to replace Olly Cook, who had put tin a superb stint, and he was quickly in action as he sought a way for Heath to respond.
The second half started in a scrappy fashion as both sides made mistakes and after 50 minutes coach Dave Harrison made changes which had an immediate effect. Si Brown and Dave Skinner came on for Jack Crabtree and Seiffe Boussaaada. Ezra Hinchliffe moved to stand off with Cameron Ramsden moving to centre to accommodate Si Brown on the wing and this seemed to re-ignite Heath. From a scrum Hinchliffe had a superb run up the hill before releasing Jason Merrie who went in under the posts. Hinchliffe added the extras and Heath were back in the lead 18-12 on 53 minutes. Brods reacted and Merrie was on hand at the other end of the field as he held up a Brods player to prevent a certain score. Brods continued to press but a massive kick clearance from Hinchliffe eased the pressure. The ball was chased down by Harriett-Brown but Brods mounted yet another attack which again was broken down with a break from Bradbrook when he picked up the ball in Heaths 22 and went on a maizey run before a tap tackle prevented a score in the Brods 22. Heath came back strong and a run from Richard Brown saw Chris Moore, Matt Beasty, Alex McFadden and Chris Piper in support and Brods had to give away a penalty to relieve the pressure. Hinchliffes attempt hit the post and bounced back into play as Jason Merrie looked to pounce Brods cleared the lines. Olly Cook replaced Chris Piper as Heath looked to increase their score but Brods broke and ran full length of the field to score an unconverted try to pull the score back to 18-17 on 72 minutes. The game could have gone either way at this stage and Boussaada returned to play as Matt Beasty came off and the Tunisian was going to have a big say in the last few minutes. Heath went back on the attack and when Brods were penalised for a high tackle the home side were reduced to 14 players and Hinchliffe added the extras and a lead of 21-17 with 5 minutes remaining. Brods were now up against it and Heath pilled on the pressure and following good work from Bradbrook, Ramsden and Si Brown the ball came out to Seiffe Boussaada and his try in the corner secured the win as Ezra Hinchliffe kicked the conversion and a final score of 28-17. There was still time for Brods to go looking for a bonus point but Heath held firm and as the referee blew for full time the Heath team, coaches and their supporters were jubilant as they retained the Littlefair Cup and secured a magical four points to maintain the pressure on the top clubs.
With Scarborough losing at home to Old Rishworthians and Beverley managing to scrape a win at Bradford Salem only five points seperates these clubs for second spot behind runaway leaders York. And we play all three in the next few weeks. Interesting!!!
Ian Rushworth, from the Hx Courier, was at the game. Read his Report at: https://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/sport/more-sport/more-woodhead-joy-for-heath-1-9022289