A Winning Team of Many Changes!
Adaptability. This shone through in bucket loads as Heath’s Under 16s proved to be just that, against a more than capable Cleckheaton squad.
In only their second match of the season, the Heath side knuckled down and got to grips with the added pressure of eight new players in the squad. With their opponents only fielding 14 players, Heath agreed to match numbers - an added pressure for Coach Alf Baxter, who managed player rotation admirably, in what proved to be a seamless cycle of substitutions.
The first 15 minutes saw the majority of play within Cleckheaton’s 22 metre and half-way line until Heath’s outside centre, Callum Harriott-Brown, broke through and promptly disappeared displaying his trademark pace and agility posting the first points of the match and allowing fly half Dominic Ellam to round off their points tally.
Regrouped, Cleckheaton took the ball back into their opponents half but failed to break Heath’s defence which proved impenetrable. Notable tackles coming from the deceptively hard hitting second row player Ben Choy, which included a crunching tackle on the Cleckheaton prop. Hooker Matthew Wilkinson, Ellam and blindside flanker Max Netherwood all defended well with Netherwood earning Man of the Match for his part. Only a penalty provided the visitors with much needed points.
The score line sat at 7 -3 until the last eight minutes of the first half when, following an excellent drive and off-load from full-back Arron Kelly, Joe Holdsworth pushed his way through crossing a metre shy of the corner. Ellam was unfortunate not to convert, the strong wind ‘boomeranging’ the ball back just short of the posts. Unfortunately, within minutes Kelly suffered a hard knock to the head sidelining him to the subs bench. He was, however, to stoically return later in the second half. The half-time whistle blew at 12 -3.
Heath’s second rower Will Bennett generously agreed to wear a Cleckheaton shirt for the second half. Taking on the role well, he proved something of a headache to his ‘usual’ teammates. Playing on the wing for a change, Tom Berridge started the points rolling again. Fast and agile, despite carrying a training injury, Berridge met little opposition on his way to the line. Once again, a strong wind denied Ellam a conversion. A brief flurry of activity from Cleckheaton saw them score their first (and last) points of the second half.
Heath soon regained their advantage with notably drives from Harriott- Brown and number eight Oliver Tandy, before a superb drive from inside centre, Jake Holmes, passed down the line to Harriott-Brown and onto eventual try-scorer Liam Sykes placed their team into a dominant lead.
Wil Norclifffe then replaced an injured Cleckheaton player only for him to then see Harriott-Brown pass him en-route to scoring what was, without question, the try of the match as he caught and ran the ball in from his own 22 metre line, touching down under the posts. Ellam added the conversion and sealed the final score at 29-8.