Heath under 17s had to pull out all the stops to overcome a strong and powerful visiting Stoke side 12-3 and underline their burning desire to win the National Cup.
Heath started well with scrum half Peter Birkett and fly half Ezra Hinchliffe orchestrating numerous flowing moves out wide, which immediately exposed a lack of pace and strength in the Stoke backline.
The Heath forwards’ early dominance around the fringes set up an ideal platform for the release of their threatening backline and following strong carries from second row Fergus Marsden and flanker Jonny Porritt, Hinchliffe was able to release his backs on the overlap; Will Tolley capitalising to score in the corner.
Hinchliffe was successful with the difficult conversion and Heath were relentless to reapply the pressure, continuing to pepper the Stoke backline with both high balls from Hinchliffe and powerful drives from centres Lewis Mckenzie and Jack Sheldrake.
Making one of many pacy breaks, winger Luke Matthews ran through the Stoke defensive line and, having eventually being brought to the deck, presented the ball perfectly to release the Heath backs out wide where Jack Crabtree utilised the overlap to cross over the whitewash. Hinchliffe was unlucky with the conversion, leaving Heath with a 12-0 lead.
Stoke fought their way back in to the game, mainly through strong carries from their tall and powerful pack. Nevertheless, the superior technique of the smaller Heath pack put the home side back on to the front foot, winning two penalties which were narrowly missed from the boot of Hinchliffe.
Small periods of pressure from the Stoke forwards did, however, earn them patches of territory in the Heath half, culminating in the visitors fly half clinically slotting a difficult penalty from 40 metres leaving Heath 12-3 up at half time.
With pitch conditions deteriorating, the game progressively fell into the hands of the forwards, Heath holding firm at the line out and scrum area to earn another penalty from which Hinchliffe was once again unlucky, this time hitting the post.
Tireless scrum work for the full 70 minutes, notably from props Lewis Foxton and Tom Kilner, along with a valiant defensive effort led by captain Stephen Hare, allowed Heath to consistently retain possession in the final period and essentially see out the game.
OLD Rishworthians under 15s maintained their winning run with a 31–5 success over Leodiensians
The opening passage of play was superb. From a secure catch, the Rishworthians forwards went into rucking mode where the back row trio of Binns, Keighley-Payne and Bullough drove the ball on with team mates in support to re-cycle. The clearing out from Hill, Radcliffe and Jamieson and the securing from Frost and Sparks was text book with Davies at scrum half snapping at the heels of the pack having the intelligence to know when to change tactic.
The forwards had gained 50 yards and Davies span the ball out Fletcher-Tennant went through a gap and made great yards before being hauled down 10 metres out. After a outstanding opening Rishies spoiled the story by giving away penalties and ended up being kicked right back into their own 22.
Great vision from Storey saw space behind the line and he put up a high kick, Westbury was 50/50 with the fullback as the ball came down, but neither managed a clean catch and it squirted towards the Leos posts. Despite what looked like a knock on the ref continued and at the resulting ruck Bullough powered over from five metres.
Bullough added another try shortly afterwards and Fletcher-Tennant got on the end of an excellent passage of play. Davies created space on the blind side for Barron to run into then followed him up and did the same for Fletcher-Tennant who cut infield and touched down near the posts. Fletcher added the conversion to make it two from three, and an early 19-0 lead.
Leos were unlucky to lose players through injury and referee suggested abandoning the game. However, Rishies had travelled expecting an hour’s game so the teams were re-shuffled, and the game continued. Rishworthians, however, lost some discipline and conceded a penalty try just before half time.
The second half continued in the same vein as a the first with passages of really good play.
Storey put Crossland through a hole in the Leos defence to sprint for the posts and Fletcher converted before Bullough pulled off a classy back row move, exchanging passes with scrum half Davies before launching Barron for the corner flag.
The referee had seen enough and in the worsening conditions brought the game to an early end.