Heath forwards answer critics

Ian Downsborough of Heath  with Darren Neilly in support
Ian Downsborough of Heath with Darren Neilly in support

Heath haven’t quite hit coach Kevin Plant’s 30-point Christmas target but a 17-7 revenge win against Selby today sent them into the festive break in good heart.

The West Vale men’s points tally now stands at 28, in what looks sure to be a prolonged battle for Yorkshire One survival between as many as eight teams, after a deserved success based on solid scrummaging.

Having disappointed their home supporters with a poor performance against Scarborough seven days earlier, they made amends on a North Dean pitch passed fit after an extreme dousing and sub-zero temperatures on successive nights.

Inevitably, heavy conditions meant the onus was on the forwards to come up trumps and the home pack responded well after an ear-bashing following a limp effort against the seasiders.

Chris Piper, signed from Cleckheaton earlier in the week, made an immediate impact at loose head prop while hooker Mark Puttick, who hobbled off in the closing seconds, and No 8 Ian Downsborough helped lead the charge.

Heath took a 10-0 lead in what coach Kevin Plant thought was their best opening half of the season.

All their points came in the opening 12 minutes, starting with an Ezra Hinchliffe penalty,

The home forwards then drove Selby off their own scrum ball and crisp, regulation passing among the backs enabled fullback Jacob Storey to stretch out to the line for his first try for the side.

Hinchliffe added the conversion and it looked plain sailing.

Seventh-placed Selby, who had won at Pontefract the previous week, begged to differ and mounted protracted pressure which was met by equally determined defence.

A scrum penalty eventually enabled Hinchliffe to clear Heath’s lines and the fly-half had a chance to extend the home side’s lead following a tremendous surge by the forwards over the half-way line, but his 26th minute penalty was wide.

The visitors made a second determined bid for points as half-time approached but Downsborough eventually brought the ball away from the Heath line with a 40 metre surge.

Hinchliffe missed two more fairly decent penalty chances in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and between them Selby got themselves right back into the game with a converted try.

It came from a high kick. A Selby player standing under the ball was ruled onside and fullback Josh Cruise made ground down the middle before possession was recycled for prop Ben Booth to go over.

Cruise converted and had a chance to level things on 58 minutes but the left footer’s penalty was wide of the left-hand upright.

Heath, who gave a debut to 17-year-old speedster Callum Harriet-Brown on the wing, were struggling for fluency in the backs but their forwards again came up trumps.

Lock Olly Cook took the ball almost to the try line but Downsborough fumbled following a five metre scrum. The No 8 didn’t make the same mistake twice, touching down two minutes later after the Heath pack had rumbled forward.

Hinchliffe’s kick took the gap between the teams out to 10 points on 65 minutes and Selby were never going to recover from there.

They did press through a series of drives from their forwards but home scrum half Dom Walsh forced a knock on and Downsborough kicked the ball into touch on half-way to finish matters.