Excellent effort, but mistakes and penalties cost Heath.
Heath welcomed Malton & Norton for a second time in three weeks, hoping to gain revenge for a walloping in the Yorkshire Shield. Stephen Hare was a withdrawal as he struggled to recover from a foot injury so backrow Jack Blackhall stepped up from the bench to join fellow debutante wing Craig Heppenstall - Will Sellars starting his first game after coming on from the bench for the last two matches. Alex Cust came on to the bench to complete the Heath line-up.
Heath began well and quickly got into their stride. Blackhall and Ryan Hunter made telling contributions in the early stages. However, it was the visitors who got the first points with their first attack when Heath gave a penalty away and Sizwe Zondo converted: 0 – 3 after 14 mins, against the run of play.
After an even contest for 18 mins, Darren Neilly (Heath’s Acting Captain in the absence of Mark Puttick) was sin-binned. Heath produced a much more determined effort – epitomized by a sterling tackle by Si Brown on Zondo to break down a Malton attack on 20 mins.
Malton showed some slick passing as Heath endeavored to maintain momentum. An excellent clearance from Mick Gleeson set up Heath’s next attack on 24 mins. It looked as if Heath had survived having only 14 men on the field but with 30 seconds of sin-bin time remaining Malton opened up the home defence and Zondo went over in the corner. He converted the try and the visitors were 0 – 10 up after 28 mins.
Heath stormed back, looking for a score. Rob Thackray and Cameron Ramsden made telling runs. The Malton fullback, Zwelakhe Sodladla, was then sin-binned and Ezra Hinchliffe kicked the penalty to peg the score back to 3 – 10 on 31 mins. As half time approached, Gleeson again set up an attack for Heath and as Malton struggled to defend they gave away another penalty and Hinchliffe obliged to make it 6 – 10. There was still time for Hinchliffe to attempt a dropped goal but it was not successful. The referee blew for half time to conclude a great first half performance from the home side.
Malton began the second half strongly but Heath were up for this game and with Anthony Darling, Sellars and Cust (now on for Blackhall) making telling tackles, Hunter and Hamish Pratt winning good lineout ball and Neilly and Olly Cook making their marks, Malton knew they were in a game. Unfortunately, over-enthusiasm from Cust saw him sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on 46 mins. Zondo missed the penalty which was a let-off for Heath. Chris Heppenstall came on for Darling.
Hinchliffe was now beginning to dictate things but with Cust waiting to re-join the game a penalty from Zondo increased Malton’s lead to 6 – 13 on 56 mins after which Cust came back on. A superb run from Heppenstall set up Heath’s next attack as they went in search of a try on 60 mins and this was followed up with a kick and chase but the ball went dead. From the re-start, Malton gave away a penalty but the opportunity was missed on 62 mins. Heath continued to batter the Malton defence with Cook, Sellars, Pratt and McFadden all making good yardage. A huge clearance from Malton went dead beyond the Heath try-line but from the 22m re-start, Heath gifted the ball to Malton and conceded an unconverted try on 70 mins: 6 – 18.
When play resumed, Neilly made up for the mistake by taking the ball to set up an attack for Heath. With time running out, Sellars was sin-binned and this seemed to spur on the home side. Brown made a splendid run following a kick through from Neilly and Heppenstall was just short of scoring a try. Heath continued to exert pressure but to no avail as the referee blew the final whistle.
Heath need to cut out silly mistakes at crucial times if they are to get victories and playing long periods of the game with only 14 men is not helpful. They equalled Malton in all departments and were even stronger in some but managed to come away with nothing. Man of the match for Heath was Dominic Walsh.