Danny Wood’s 60th-minute penalty for the visitors provided the only points in Saturday’s Heath versus Old Brodleians derby game at North Dean.
As the 0-3 scoreline suggests, there was little to get excited about in a Yorkshire One contest played under floodlights on a damp, gloomy afternoon.
Visiting coach John Cole’s post-match comment that it was easier to be destructive than constructive when passions were running high between local rivals seemed a fair assessment.
Little was seen of either back line as the forwards chose to slug it out. When the ball did emerge, both sides opted for the safety first tactic of trying to gain territory through the boot.
Brods had won last season’s corresponding fixture in the spring by the narrowest of margins and this was another gritty effort from the Woodhead men, who had their backs to the wall for much of the match.
They have now won four games out of six this season and, boosted by some overseas players in key positions, look unlikely to have to scrap for survival in the section for a second year running.
Heath have tasted defeat in five of their six games so far and coach Kevin Plant admits they are “in a hole.”
Their solid forward platform means they should more than hold their own at this level but they are making a habit of losing close games and that is eroding confidence.
Both sides were pretty much at full strength but Brods lost lock Matt Willis to injury inside two minutes. His teammates Rob Jennings and Callum Thompson and Heath fullback Sam Pollard were among those in the wars as the contest progressed.
Heath dominated field position in the first half while Brods had a running battle with referee David Downham, particularly at the scrum.
Penalties they had won were reversed and dissent cost them an extra 10 metres on a couple of occasions but Heath were unable to make them pay, missing four kickable penalties.
Stand off Ezra Hinchliffe’s good recent form from the tee deserted him as he missed on eight, 18 and 38 minutes. Big centre Cayci Pearson also had a go but put wide possibly the easiest chance on 33 minutes.
Wood, returning after a shoulder injury, was also off target with a long range effort in a very forgettable first half.
Heath had got close to the try line on a few occasions before making errors in the face of determined Brods defence and that pattern continued after the break.
Home props Dave Watson and Chris Moore continued to have a good day in the scrums while Brods No 8 Luke Scrimshaw did what he does best, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear from poor quality possession at the base of the scrum.
Liam Scott’s good diagonal kick to touch gave Brods a rare position to attack but knock-ons and another scrum penalty meant Heath were soon back on the attack, aided by Hinchliffe’s fine touch finder.
It soon became clear that Heath were battering away at a brick wall but they failed to change their one-dimensional approach and Wood’s kick eventually lifted the siege.
The Brods number 10 then rubbed salt into Heath’s wounds by spearing a low kick between the posts from the right for the all-important penalty.
There was a sense of inevitability over the outcome from the home side after that and Brods had the better of the last 15 minutes, hard-working Kiwi centre Sam Deacon’s tackle on Pearson ending a dour contest.
Cole said it had been unfortunate the game had developed into a “real arm wrestle” but he praised his players’ resolve.
“We had to dig in on defence and really pulled together,” he said.
His frustrated counterpart Kevin Plant said his side had made far too many errors within 15 metres of the Brods try line.
“We didn’t have the composure we needed.
“The forwards kept sticking the ball up their jumpers and kept battering away.
“We had to do something different but we didn’t change our game plan.”