Late tries sink Heath
Heath were unable to follow up their wonder win at leaders Bridlington when they lost 24-16 at home to second-placed West Leeds yesterday.
Another dominant forward effort came to nothing but head coach Dave Harrison saw enough in the performance to believe his 10th placed side can have a fruitful January in Yorkshire One.
A 5-0 points return in favour of the visitors was a cruel outcome for Heath with even the visiting supporters wondering how their team had managed to win.
The answer appeared fairly obvious - an outstanding display from the visitors’ teenage stand off Steffan James, who scored a hat-trick of tries including the clincher with three minutes remaining.
The student from Wales, who plays for Llanelli back home and is apparently West Leeds’ second choice number 10, brought the best out of some quick and confident three quarters as well as showing an ability to finish.
His efforts and those of his fellow backs only served to highlight Heath’s so obvious lack of a cutting edge behind the scrum.
James’ opposite number James Robson looked out of sorts before being brought off early in the second half and Ezra Hinchliffe’s switch to the play making role made little difference as Heath opted for a kicking game.
Returning flanker Howard Hanks led another robust effort from the home forwards while heavily-involved full back Jordan Bradbrook generally had a decent game.
Hinchliffe kicked penalties after eight and 13 minutes but Heath still trailed 7-6, James having scored wide out and added the goal on 11 minutes.
Neither side could win their own lineout ball in the first half, which made kicking for touch an attractive option, while West Leeds were quick to shovel the ball out of a rapidly retreating scrum.
The visitors finished the half strongly and took a 12-6 lead via Jack Marshall. Heath appeared to be defending well but were caught short of numbers on the blind side following a ruck and the winger cashed in.
The home side sorted out their lineout, continued to out-muscle their visitors and hit the front on 53 minutes.
Sheer brute force from replacement Jordan Moana, the burly son of former Halifax RL and Heath player Martin, did the trick.
The replacement, slotting in at No 8, picked up from the base of a scrum and broke through two or three weak tackles in a 30 metre run to the line.
Hinchliffe added the conversion from 10 metres to the left of the posts and continued a fine goal kicking display with a 25 metre penalty for a 16-12 lead on the hour.
West Leeds looked on the ropes, with most of the play in the second half in their territory, but you don’t keep getting to Twickenham unless you have a special spirit.
To general surprise the Senior Vase holders won a scrum against the head, then kicked a penalty to the corner and James provided the finish near the right hand post.
The stand off added the goal to make it 16-19 entering the last 10 minutes.
Heath pressed again and set up the chance for a catch and drive in the corner. It appeared to be halted by West Leeds players going to ground but no penalty was forthcoming and Heath, forced to spin the ball, predictably couldn’t cash in.
The omnipresent James applied the killer blow, earned his side a four-try bonus point and denying Heath a losing bonus, when fielding a high kick in acres of space in midfield and racing to the corner for an unconverted try.