Heath v Bradford Salem: 3-try burst decisive
Heath hit back after a mid-match meltdown to beat visitors Bradford Salem 25-11 yesterday and move closer to the runners-up spot in Yorkshire One.
Mid-table Salem hardly got out of their own half in the opening 30 minutes as the North Dean side’s strength up front told and only determined defence restricted Dave Harrison’s hosts to an 8-0 advantage.
However, Heath then completely lost their way, made a plethora of errors and went 11-8 down before reasserting themselves with three tries in 11 minutes in the final quarter to win comfortably.
The bonus-point win keeps Heath eight points ahead of Pontefract in second place, behind champions-elect Moortown, with four rounds of fixtures left.
Coach Dave Harrison described the performance as “very flat” and admitted it had been disappointing after the “sizzling” nine-try eclipse of Guisborough seven days earlier.
However, he said Salem were a tricky side to play against and his players had to be satisfied with another maximum five-point haul.
Heath, who had won the first meeting 10-3 in mid-November, made a confident start, boosted by a successful penalty from Ezra Hinchliffe after two minutes.
Hinchliffe’s centre partner Issy Spooner got to within a couple of metres of the try line after Rastrick referee Laurence Pearson had marched Salem back three lots of 10 metres for dissent by their young scrum half.
Heath battered away but Salem, who fielded a patched-up side and picked up injuries during the game, showed great resilience in defence until fullback Chris Robinson went in for an unconverted try wide on the left after Hinchliffe had unlocked the defence.
Prop Chris Piper went close and Heath threatened a couple of times down the flanks but a break down the middle heralded an upturn in Salem’s fortunes.
Home scrum half Michael Reynolds was yellow carded for not retiring 10 metres at a tapped penalty. Jake Green kicked the simple penalty and Salem turned round at 8-8 when the Heath defence was again caught flat-footed in midfield, leading to a try wide out for centre Ryan Smith.
Heath bombed a couple of chances with handling errors at the start of the second half and Salem hit the front on 48 minutes with a Green penalty for a high tackle.
The frustration - and the penalty count against them - was mounting for the home side, who eventually upped their game, cut out the mistakes and made ground with a fine move involving scrum half Reynolds and big forwards Richard Brown and Alex Patrick.
A cynical offside, which produced a penalty but no card, kept Salem’s line in tact for a short while before replacement forward Seife Boussadda went over from the close range.
Hinchliffe’s kick hit a post, keeping the score at 13-11, but after a Jack Crabtree break from the restart, Dan Cole eventually picked up the ball to score wide on the left and Hinchliffe added a fine conversion.
The dam had burst and the comeback was completed with 10 minutes left when Heath made plenty of ground through a prolonged drive maul down the left and the ball was spun to the other side of the pitch where Robinson rolled out of a couple of tackles to touch down for his second try, which was unconverted.
Heath now have a weekend off ahead of a tricky trip to improved Dinnington.