Close - but still a win.
Heath entertained Bradford Salem in a re-arranged game from March when the North Dean pitch was water-logged. After four defeats on the trot, Heath sought to get back to winning ways against a team just below them in the league.
There were several changes to the side which lost at Selby. Olly Cook started at prop after a couple of matches on the bench. Jack Sheldrake came in at centre for Cameron Ramsden (unavailable) and Si Brown was on the wing following injury to Matt Baxendale. Josh White made a welcome return at No 8. On the bench was Matt Beasty recovered from injury, together with Paddy Kerr and 17-years old Michael Reynolds who made his 1st team debut.
Heath immediately took full advantage of the wind with Sam Pollard finding touch in the Salem 22 with a kick from his own 22. This set up a Heath attack and when Jack Crabtree fed Sheldrake a penalty resulted. Ezra Hinchliffe’s conversion put Heath in front with 4 mins gone: 3 – 0. Heath were in fine form and when Crabtree passed a short ball to Hinchliffe he burst through and released Sheldrake who scored under the posts. The conversion by Hinchliffe made it 10 – 0 on 10 mins. There was no stopping Heath at this stage and Peter Birkett would have scored on 13 mins but Dominic Walsh had his final pass intercepted.
Much against the run of play, Bradford Salem broke free and after Heath missed several tackles the visitor’s No 14 scored a try on 18 mins: 10 – 5. Heath lost their way a little as Salem made inroads into the home defence but on 26 mins, following a series of interplays from Heath, a penalty set up a chance. A scrum followed and after charges from Howard Hanks and Chris Piper eventually Cook scored a try on 28 mins: 15 – 5. A Salem player was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Following the re-start, Salem were awarded a penalty which their fullback converted: 15 – 8 on 30 mins. Hinchliffe was tackled 5 metres short but Peter Birkett was on hand to go over in the corner on 32 mins and Hinchliffe obliged with a superb conversion: 22 – 8. Next, Downsborough and Hanks had two storming runs as Heath threatened to run riot, completing the first half well in command.
There were no changes at half time but on 43 mins Beasty had to replace Birkett following an injury. Downsborough dropped back to flanker allowing Beasty into the 2nd row. Salem were rousing themselves by now but good defence from Alex McFadden enabled Walsh to clear the danger on 48 mins.
Sam Pollard put in a magnificent kick to set up Heath’s next attack on 50 mins but then he suffered a nasty injury and was replaced by Michael Reynolds. He quickly made an impact chasing a kick from Walsh and forcing Salem to find touch. Heath won the next lineout and a great kick from Crabtree bounced perfectly for Callum Harriott-Brown to score the bonus-point try in the corner: 27 – 8 on 55 mins.
Christ Piper was injured on 57 mins and this brought Kerr on to the field. More good work from Harriott-Brown relieved Heath when he kicked the ball dead after a race against Salem’s No 14 who was a constant threat. Undeterred, the Salem wingman went in for a try on 64 mins which his fullback converted to make it 27 – 15. This spurred the visitors on and another try and conversion on 68 mins brought them back into contention.
Heath responded with a Cook charge, supported by Walsh, Crabtree and Si Brown kicking for Harriott-Brown. A run from Hanks set up another attack and Salem gave away a penalty on 72 mins, which Hinchliffe converted: 30 – 22. Cook then had to go off and Piper returned.
Heath seemed to be in control but a lapse in concentration allowed Salem to run the length of the field to score a converted try: 30 – 29 and the pressure returned! The home team worked themselves into the Salem 22 and Crabtree calmly dropped a goal as the clock wound down: 33 – 29. However, the drama was not quite ended as a long Hinchliffe kick went dead and the ball was brought back for a Salem scrum, so Cook went back on for Kerr. Heath held firm and the day was won.
Bradford Salem took away 2 points but for Heath this was a hard-earned bonus-point victory to send them into the next derby game against Old Brodleians in buoyant mood.
Ian Rushworth came down to the game, to report for the Courier. Read his view of the game at: