Ezra comes up trumps again

Heath v Brods
Rob Jennings tackled by Richard Brown
Heath v Brods Rob Jennings tackled by Richard Brown

Ezra Hinchliffe proved that lightning can strike twice in the same place as Heath beat Old Brodleians 16-14 at North Dean yesterday.

The centre settled last season’s corresponding fixture with a late drop goal and he repeated the feat at the same end of the ground in the rematch.

Hinchliffe struck with four minutes left last April and then had to watch as visiting skipper Ollie Akroyd hit an upright with a penalty attempt as Heath clung on for a 16-15 win.

Hinchliffe cut it even finer yesterday, his three-pointer being followed immediately by the final whistle.

Defeat was a hammer blow to the visitors’ promotion hopes in Yorkshire One and a bitter pill to swallow after they had led 14-3 when this fixture was abandoned on November 12.

Their full back Dom Georgiou sustained a serious neck injury on that occasion and he was at the West Vale ground yesterday, complete with a metal framework around his head, to witness the rematch.

Unfortunately for the third-placed Brods, Heath are a different proposition now than they were in the autumn.

Coach Dave Harrison reckons his men have “toughened up” since then and they particularly impressed with their scrummaging and intense defence.

Back rowers Richard Brown and Ben Maxwell caught the eye in a game which Harrison thought was a good advert for Yorkshire One rugby.

Brods, who had American prop Bennie Pritchett back, probably played better than when beating Bradford Salem seven days earlier but were left to rue Tom Breakwell’s failed touch-finder from a penalty with the clock winding down.

Instead, home full back Jordan Bradbrook performed miracles to keep the ball in play, and his big kick shortly after set up the position for Hinchliffe’s drop goal.

On a still, grey afternoon the early skirmishes were even.

Brods took a 3-0 lead on 13 minutes when a move involving Michael Briggs, James Marshall and Jonny Cole earned a straightforward penalty for Breakwell.

Hinchcliffe replied on 22 minutes after a string of penalties in Heath’s favour but young scrum half Breakwell immediately made it 6-3 to the visitors.

The home forwards were building up a head of steam and Heath hit the front on 29 minutes through winger Luke Saltonstall’s finish wide on the right.

The hosts, now on top, might have had a second try before the break but Briggs got across to tackle Si Brown in the corner and Howard Hanks fumbled when he only had to pick up the ball and put it down over the line.

Heath went 13-6 up on 45 minutes when Hinchliffe’s long kick got a lucky bounce into touch, a scrum penalty followed and replacement Eddie Cartwright crossed for an unconverted score.

Brods hit back strongly with their lineout impressive throughout.

Left winger Zack Thompson was ruled to have put a foot in touch before crossing the try line and lock Pete Williams appeared to have scored but the referee decided on a five metre scrum and Heath survived.

A thrilling passage of thrust and counter-thrust play followed before a Breakwell penalty cut the gap to four points on 66 minutes.

Brods full back Chris Vine then sent in Thompson wide on the left with 10 minutes remaining to give Brods a 14-13 lead.

That looked likely to be enough with both sides feeling the strain from their nonstop efforts.

However, Heath mounted a late attack and the under-pressure Brods pack offended in front of their posts.

The referee played advantage and Hinchliffe, with a shot to nothing, speared the ball between the posts in decisive fashion.