Heath winless run continues with yet more injuries
1. Kerr 6. Wilby 11 Wilkinson
2. Whitworth 7. Dawes 12 Bruce
3. Morley 8. McFadzean 13 Saltonstall
4. James 9. Cole 14 Burbidge
5. Milner 10 Reynolds 15 Baxendale
Subs: Owen, Hammond
At last we were greeted with fine and sunny conditions for the visit of local rivals Rishworthians, keen to avenge the defeat on their ground earlier in the season, and looking for their first success over Heath 2nds in several seasons.
Captain Cole had struggled throughout the week, to pull together a team, battling with several injuries and unavailable players. Taking to the field with only 6 recognised backs, and Burbidge moving from flanker to right wing, this was going to be another tough challenge for the home side, against opponents renowned for excellent back play and speed.
Rishworthians kicked off and were immediately on the attack, a hasty clearance by Baxendale was unlucky to come off the inside of his boot and went straight into touch, with little position gained. Securing the line out, Rish drove forward with the Heath pack doing their best to repel each drive, moving away from one ruck, influential flyhalf was left clutching his knee on the floor.
After several minutes of treatment, he retook his position but was not moving freely, and Rishworthians continued where they had left off. Moving the ball across the field they were held up just over the line, by last ditch tackling and a 5m scrum was awarded, then winning a penalty. Choosing the scrum option, they quickly found space out wide and crossed for the opening score. An excellent conversion take, added to Heaths misery
With the restart going straight out, our opponents were back in possession straight away, and attacked down the wing but knocked on in contact on the 22, giving Heath a chance to clear. Reynolds executed a great kick through and the chasing Bruce and Wilby tackled the full back, but covering players were able to clear right down to the 10m line.
The run and kick had been the last straw for the struggling Reynolds, and he had to leave the field, Owen came on at scum half with Cole moving to 10. Heath at last managed to move the ball for a time outside of their own 22, via a great break from Baxendale, seeing Wilkinson overlapping he released him but he chose to cut inside, when maybe a dart for the line would have been best. He was quickly enveloped and the ball was knocked on, the chance was gone.
Rishworthians backs again showed pace and power to get around the back of the covering tacklers, but Saltonstall chasing back, prevented a try, however a penalty was awarded for not releasing the tackler.
With a kick to the 10m line, Rish had another chance to score. With the ball thrown too long, James collected the ball and piled forward, a move he had a chance to repeat several times at the back of the set piece. Bruce then saw space, but lost the ball in a thunderous tackle, Rish punted the ball through, setting up a chase with the covering Burbidge, who with a dive, secured a 22 drop out.
The ball came straight back, and a good tackle by Dawes forced a knocked on, allowing Wilkinson to break, but the play was halted, due to a McFadzean injury, that turned out to be a broken nose, which would later see him having to leave the field, due to not being able to see out of one eye.
Rishworth secured the ball again and a further succession of penalties moved them nearer the line, again being adjudged held up towards the end of a succession of drives. From the set piece they spread the ball, only Dawes and Bruce working together stopped a further try, instead forcing a knock on. Cole cleared from the restart, as the far as the 22, with a drive seemingly repelled, the ball somehow sprung from the ruck, over the Heath line, with the attacking back the only one to react to touch down. The extras were missed 0-12.
Heath at last made ground from the kick-off, with Bruce forcing a penalty and further gains for not retreating 10. The kick was just kept in by the covering back and with the ball held up the official blew for Half time.
There was a consensus in the crowd, that Heath could count themselves lucky to only be 12 points adrift at the break, with two or three try scoring chances missed and the possession stats. They had to lift themselves which would be a huge mountain to climb, with several players playing out of position and James already known to have to leave the field within 15 minutes, for an important appointment
Heath kicked off, but very shortly after the start, McFadzean was down again and had to leave the field due his injury, with Hammond replacing him. With Reynolds still on side-line, and no more replacements, it was likely that we would be down to 14 men for most of the 2nd period. The Heath pack lifted their game with Kerr and Morley piling forward, allowing pacey Milner to weave through gaining ground. Winning, a penalty, Heath were within 5m of the line again, but could not break through. With a clearing kick well taken by Bruce he saw space to spread the field, drawing a tackle he released Wilkinson, who seeing that he was only covered by a forward, sprinted round and crossed for an excellent try just to right of the post, allowing Cole to add the conversion 7-12
In the next passage of play, the score seesawed, first with Rishworthians taking the kick option from a further penalty, in front of the posts moving the score to 7-15.
Then Saltonstall skipped through several tackles to score wide to bring us back within range, Cole could not convert the difficult chance 12-15
James then left as expected, and much to his credit Reynolds went onto the wing, albeit limping on one leg, would the opposite wingers, choose to exploit this.
Rishworthians picked up their game once again, with cumulative penalties drawing a warning from the official, with the next play drawing a foul, Milner saw yellow, as expected. Heath, to their credit tried to take the game to their opponents, Saltonstall was unlucky not to win a penalty, for obstruction in the middle of the field, after a kick through. From the clearance kick, Heath committed another offence, for a no arms tackle, giving Rish a chance to take the scrum option, knowing we were a man light. Finally realising, only Reynolds was covering on the blind side, they pushed the scrum back and ran in the try, that finally put pay to any hopes of a comeback, adding the extras 12-22
With only 10 minutes remaining, Heath looked dead on their feet, and the pacey opposite backs looked to rub salt into the wounds, spreading the ball where they could. With Milner returning to the fray, there was at least time for Heath to spend a few minutes pressing their opponents line, with several penalties being tapped and driven, but when there seemed no way through, the ball was spread, only to be unluckily knocked on by the charging Whitworth. Rishworthians kicked and chased forcing tired legs to track back, recycling well, they crashed through several tackles and forced another overlap scoring a converted try. 12-29. Time was blown shortly after.
Again, another great team effort, but in the end, they just ran out of steam against relentless pressure from Rishworthians, who deserved their victory. The pace does not let up next week, with the visit of leaders West Leeds, who subjected Heath to their heaviest loss, for several seasons late in 2018. Let’s hope that injuries are quick to heal, and missing players can clear their diaries in time for next week’s battle