Christmas came early for N Ribb'
A trip to the Yorkshire Dales for Heath as they travelled to Settle to take on North Ribblesdale in a battle of the basement clubs and a game both sides were desperate to win to claw their way out of the relegation places but once again Heath let themselves down badly when they seemed in control of the game.
New signing James Robson started at stand-off in his first team debut and he was quickly in the action when Jordan Bradbrook broke clear with a strong run before releasing him in turn producing a slick pass to Lewis Barrett who went over in the corner for a try after 2 minutes which was converted by Bradbrook for Heath to have the perfect start 7- 0.
In glorious autuminal conditions Heath had started like a house on fire and the home side could not cope with the onslaught - giving away a penalty after 10 minutes, which Bradbrook put wide, before a clever kick and chase from Robson saw Heath get a line out 20 metres from the Ribb try line. Fergus Marsden won the tap back and Dominic Walsh scooped up the ball to go in for Heaths second try on 12 minutes to lead 12- 0.
There was no stopping the Heath onslaught, but a penalty to North Ribblesdale, in one of their rare raids into the Heath half, saw them reduce the arrears to 12- 3 on 15 minutes. This seemed to inspire the home side and, when an attempted clearance from Bradbrook was charged down, they pounced and went over for a try under the posts to pull back the score to 12-10 after 22 minutes.
Heath's response was quick and, following good work from Howard Hanks and Ben Maxwell, saw a kick through which put Ribb under pressure. An attempted kick clearance was charged down by Si Brown and Eddie Carwright was in the right place at the right time to pounce on the ball and score Heath's third try, again, unconverted, 17- 10 after 25 minutes.
Heath had settled down and were working the scrums with strong runs from Tom Baxter and Fergus Marsden putting the home team under immense pressure. Next, Chris Moore and Matt Beasty surged forwards and, when the ball was released along the line through Robson, Cartwright and Barrett the centre looked sure to score Heaths fourth try, but he (for some reason) hesitated, slipped and the chance had gone. The game was all Heath and, when Cartwright put in a superb cross field kick, Jack Sheldrake picked it up and set on a run for the line - only for the Ribblesdale cover to come across and bundle him into touch. Ribb had no answer to Heath's powerful pack and had to give away a penalty after 38 minutes but, unfortunately, Bradbrook was off target again.
Half time came with Heath in total control and looking as if they would run away with the game in the second half.
The second half began as Heath had left off, with Richard Brown in the thick of things and directing play from the back of the scrums. He linked well with Baxter and as the ball came along the back line Jack Sheldrake looked to score a certain try but was pushed into touch with the try-line beckoning.
Ribb had re-grouped and were closing players down a lot quicker and only a last grasp tackle from Jordan Bradbrook saved a certain try for the home side, but Heath were beginning to buckle. On 54 minutes coach Harrison brought off Matt Beasty, Alex McFadden and Richard Brown replacing them with Mark Puttick, Luke Saltenstall and Ryan Hunter but Ribb had the bit between their teeth and scored a converted try on 58 minutes to pull the scores level.
With Heath players panicking, Ribb went on to score a third try, ten minutes later, to edge ahead 22-17.
In a 15 minute period Heath had gone from looking certain to win the match to being behind for the first time in the game and with time running out. Heath needed to respond and when Puttick was injured on 75 minutes Mc Fadden re-joined the fray.
Heath became en-camped in the Ribb 22 and, after several scrummages, they were just short of the tryline, looking for the winning score. The forwards were dominant, so it looked likely that a game saving try would come their way. But, the ball squirted out from the Ribb side of things, they pounced and kicked it dead, to save the match. Much to their relief, the dismay of the Heath players and their large band of supporters. L 22 - 17.
Once again, Heath had lost a game where for long periods of the match they were in total control but had succumbed to a farcical 20 minutes - a thing which has happened in too many games this season. This result now finds them in the relegation places.
With matches, in the next few weeks, against teams in the top half of the league - beginning with the visit of high flying second placed and local rivals Old Brodleians next week, the outlook looks poor and the team are now in a real battle for Yorkshire 1 survival.