Fine performance - with dogged defence at the end.
Rather wet conditions greeted Heath at Bradford Salem for this Yorkshire One clash. From the team selected, the only change was Cameron Ramsden out (unavailable through work commitments) and Peter Birkett in at fullback with Ezra Hinchliffe moving forward to centre.
Salem kicked off and immediately put Heath under pressure with their pack dominating for the first 10 mins. Heath withstood this early pressure with Josh White, Howard Hanks and Ian Downsborough prominent, until their first real attack came on 12 mins, from a lineout. Scrum half Dominic Walsh fed fly-half Jack Crabtree but his pass to Hinchliffe was adjudged forward with a try beckoning. An ankle injury to Matt Beasty forced Fergus Marsden to take his second-row place on 15 mins.
Heath were playing a much more controlled game now as both sides contested for the opening score and the first opportunity came to Heath on 20 mins. Salem were penalized for pulling down in the lineout but, unfortunately, Hinchliffe’s kick was just wide of the posts.
Salem came back but Birkett was steady at fullback and cleared the danger on 23 mins. Heath stormed back with Darren Neilly and Mark Puttick punching holes in the Salem defence. A cross-kick from centre Ben Hinsley set Si Brown up for a try in the corner. The conversion was missed but Heath had nosed in front: 0 – 5 on 28 mins.
At the re-start, Heath seemed to have switched off and Salem captain Andy Robinson waltzed over for a try which was converted by Danny Belcher for Salem to lead 7 – 5 on 30 mins. Heath needed to respond and several players made important yardage before, from a resulting penalty, Heath nailed a lineout in the Salem corner on 37 mins. With the home side under pressure, Salem’s wing Sam Savage was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. From the scrum, Heath’s Chris Piper scored a well-deserved try which Hinchliffe converted to put Heath in front 7 – 12, with only injury time to play.
An excellent first half in this hard-fought battle concluded with Heath deservedly in front.
The start of the second half saw Heath’s pack dominant and dictating play with Salem having no answer. From a great pass out to Hinsley and Callum Harriott-Brown, the ball came back across the field involving Crabtree, Walsh and a basket-ball style pass to Si Brown for Heath’s free-scoring wingman to go over for his 2nd try, converted by Hinchliffe: 7 – 19 on 48 mins. Four minutes later, Alex MacFadden came off after a cracking game and he was replaced by Rondene Johnson.
However, it was Salem who next turned up the pressure. Missed tackles allowed their wing Ryan Smith almost to the try line before he was ankle-tapped by Harriett-Brown but he managed to pop the ball up to his full-back Belcher who scored a converted try on 56 mins to make it 14 – 19 and all to play for.
From the re-start, Hinsley was sin-binned for an intentional knock-on when Heath were up against it. Salem were on the attack and Heath were struggling – twice holding Salem up over the line. With 20 mins to go, Heath were clinging on but managed to clear their lines. Matt Baxendale came on for Harriott-Brown.
When Hinsley came back, on 68 mins, Heath were back up to strength but still under pressure. On 73 mins, after Heath had soaked up everything Salem had to offer, they broke free and were awarded a penalty which narrowly missed.
Salem were keen to get back on attack but Baxendale, Neilly and Piper were strong in the tackle. A series of silly penalties allowed Salem back on the attack as the final minutes of the game ebbed and flowed. Heath tried to run the clock down. Following a high tackle on Brown, the ball was put in the corner for a line-out and when the seconds had ticked by, Walsh kicked the ball off the pitch for a well-deserved victory.
This was a superb all-round performance from the Heath boys, lifting them to 6th place in the league. Roll on Selby next week!