Play-offs: Heath sunk by West Hartlepool’s late penalty
Heath must try to lift themselves for Thursday’s Yorkshire Shield final after the bitter disappointment of seeing promotion from Yorkshire One slip through their fingers yesterday.
The North Dean men lost 24-23 at West Hartlepool in a promotion play-off game, going down to an added-time penalty from near the touchline by captain Stu Waites.
What made it worse was that they had looked in control of a clash between league runners-up for much of the contest, leading 16-5 and 23-11.
The outcome means Heath will remain in Yorkshire One along fellow Calderdale sides Old Crossleyans and Old Brodleians - who are their Shield opponents at Keighley on Thursday - but there is now unlikely to be a reprieve for next-to-bottom finishers Old Rishworthians.
Heath were well supported in the north east and took to the pitch to the sound of trumpets, cymbols and cheering which helped to create a superb atmosphere.
Heath kicked off with a swirling wind at their backs and immediately went on the attack. Dan Cole’s kick went deep into the home 22 and although Wests cleared to touch and won the line-out, a Jason Merrie steal led to the home defence being put under severe pressure. The visitors were awarded a penalty after five minutes and Ezra Hinchliffe made it 3-0.
Wests’ response was immediate as they stormed back, scoring an unconverted try after 11 minutes.
The game was being played at a frantic pace. Eddie Cartwright was bundled into touch but following the lineout Heath gained another penalty and Hinchliffe nudged the visitors back in front after 15 minutes.
The collisions were ferocious and provided compelling viewing.
Hinchliffe added a third penalty and when Wests made a mistake on the half way line after 30 minutes, he scooped up the ball and set off for the try-line. With the home defence closing, Hinchliffe slipped a pass to Dan Cole, who went under the posts for a converted try.
Wests’ support looked shell-shocked but Matt Beasty was sin binned for a high tackle and the home side hit back with a successful penalty and a drop goal to make it 11-16
Heath began the second half with a mazy run from Issy Spooner, Hinchliffe and Cartwright continuing the move.
Wests came back with some astute kicking but superb work by Merrie on the half way line led to Hinchliffe releasing Callum Harriett-Brown and the winger scored Heath’s second try. Hinchliffe converted to make it 23-11 after 47 minutes.
Wests reduced the gap with a 54th minute penalty but back came the Halifax side with Chris Moore and Alex Patrick prominent and Jonny Cole was held just short of the try.
Cartwright was sin binned for not rolling away and Wests scored a converted try on 65 minutes to reduce Heath’s lead to 23-21 and make it anyone’s game.
Heath seemed to be in control. A Hinchliffe penalty went agonisingly wide with two minutes left and Spooner collected the restart to set Heath back onto the attack.
Wests would not let go and deep into injury time Heath gave away a penalty and Waites kicked the difficult goal to leave his teammates and the home supporters ecstatic while Heath were left completely deflated and wondering how they had lost.