Brilliant tenacity and 120% effort from the travelling 15!
Heath never expected their fixture at league-leaders Doncaster to be easy, nor did they anticipate the hangover from Black Friday into Saturday! There were only 15 players available, from which Kevin Plant had to construct a team. However, the final score does not do justice to the fine display which these gallants delivered for the serried ranks of empty seats at the home of Doncaster Knights.
Oblivious to the rugby pedigrees which confronted them, Heath’s makeshift team harassed their hosts into error after error with an excellent defensive display which had them only 2 points adrift just before half time at 5 – 3. Number 11 had scored an unconverted try on 22 mins for Doncaster and Hinchliffe had nailed a penalty for Heath on 36 mins.
Olly Wilby was yellow-carded within the first 10 minutes for a deliberate knock on as Doncaster stormed down the hill using their big forwards to try to break the line. As Doncaster kept spilling the ball Heath managed to clear through good defensive kicks from Storey, Walsh, Cameron and Hinchliffe. Malik stood firm in the centre alongside Brown. Twice, Thackray almost escaped but was tackled into touch. There was no score during Wilby’s enforced absence.
Heath’s forwards proved able to contain their larger counterparts, tackling low before they got into their stride or smothering them before they could move the ball. Downsborough, Blackall and Wilby were all over the field; Marsden came of age as a tower of strength in the lineout, tackled and ran as never before, alongside Barnes; and Neilly. Puttick and McFadden held their own in the front row.
Doncaster did show glimpses of why they are firmly ensconced at the top of the table with their Number 8, Peacey and second row Byrne conspicuous and fullback Deakin always a danger man. Just before half time their forwards executed a series of ‘pick-and-drives’ near the Heath line which eventually yielded an opening for Deakin to score an unconverted try: 10 – 3. Nevertheless, this had been a very good half for Heath. They had foiled varied attacks from Doncaster who had had the lions’ share of possession but not territory.
Early in the second half, Doncaster employed the rolling maul tactic to tire Heath’s forwards and although they didn’t score directly from it, the pressure told and Heath conceded a very kickable penalty – which Doncaster declined, putting the ball in touch near the Heath line instead. Following a scrum, a perfectly weighted long pass put Doncaster’s outstanding centre Ellis unopposed through a gap to score near the posts. Deakin had no trouble with the conversion: 17 – 3 on 53 mins.
By this time, Puttick had been injured several times but stayed on the field and Barnes had had to go off for running repairs before he returned, in the absence of substitutes. Doncaster worked the substitution laws to good effect, resting players by bringing on fresh legs at regular intervals throughout. 20 mins into the second half their left wing, Fowler, just beat the covering defence after his prop cleverly turned the direction of play: 22 – 3.
Following the re-start, Doncaster should have scored another try but the ball was passed into touch. Then Walsh ran a penalty to spark a Heath attack but the ball was lost. Doncaster won a scrum 5 metres from the Heath line and second row, Owen scored a try which Deakin converted: 29 – 3 on 70 mins.
Heath immediately showed their mettle, attacking the Doncaster line. A blatant knock-down of the ball by the Doncaster wing to prevent what looked like a certain try was blown up by the referee but neither yellow card nor penalty try followed, baffling spectators if not players.
For the next 8 mins, Heath continued attacking but Doncaster broke away and only superb cover tackling denied them another score – but they had the final word when Brown was caught offside. From a pick and drive, Doncaster’s Ellis burst through for his second try and this time fly-half Steadman converted for a final score of 36 – 3.