Heath forwards lay down the law

Heath 33

York 20

By Ian Rushworth

A TREMENDOUS display of power and aggression from the forwards ensured Heath had five league points in the bag after 50 minutes of Saturday’s Yorkshire One contest.

Two tries apiece from stand-in centre Simon Brown and winger Rob Thackray, plus one from hooker Mark Puttick, helped the third-placed North Dean men canter into a 33-3 lead.

However, the gloss was taken off skipper Ian Downsborough’s winning send-off as the home side made substitutions, surrendered their dominance up front and leaked three tries in the last 15 minutes.

Coach Kevin Plant was satisfied with a maximum return after the one-point defeat at Bridlington the previous Saturday, but concerned about how his side had lost their way and he thought the use of replacements was only a partial excuse.

“We need to get a bit more consistency in the second half of matches because this is not the first time it has happened,” he said.

“We get into a comfortable position and then the concentration goes. The top sides will punish us for that.”

Overall, though, there were plenty of positives for a team which has had more than its share of injuries and absentees this season.

The next will be No 8 Downsborough, who is heading to Afghanistan with the RAF and will miss the next six or seven matches. That will be a big loss because he is arguably Heath’s best player and he was a beacon in the lineout on Saturday as well as making his usual giant contribution in other areas of the game.

Back rower Dave Montgomery plundered plenty of ruck ball but it was the often unsung heroes in the front row, James Watson, Puttick and Chris Moore who really caught the eye with some destructive scrummaging and strong play in the loose.

A back line adjusted at the last minute when Karl Craven withdrew, looked a little short on muscle but had enough about it to cash in on the good work of the forwards.

The early play was concentrated in the York half and it took Heath only eight minutes to get points on the board, Brown rounding his opposite number on the 22 for a try converted by centre partner Ben Mitchell.

York lost a lock to the sin-bin for stamping in a ruck on 14 minutes and although Mitchell’s well-struck penalty was narrowly off target, he made it 14-0 with a good conversion on 21 minutes after Puttick had been driven over from a lineout catch and drive.

Fullback Jamie Eveleigh replied with a simple penalty for the visitors but Heath’s revitalised scrum half Richard Cole was enjoying himself behind a rampant pack and his kick which helped the hosts go 19-3 up after 30 minutes. Eveleigh dithered in trying to collect the ball over his own line and Brown was quick to pounce for an unconverted try.

Montgomery and York winger Sam Arkle were yellow carded with seven minutes of the half left but Heath carried on in the same vein with their best score to seal a four-try bonus point. The pack set up camp deep in York territory and backs Matt Baxendale, Mitchell and Charlie Lomas kept the ball alive superbly to leave Thackray with an easy finish.

Mitchell converted for 26-3 but Heath had to defend desperately at the end of the half and lost forwards coach Ian Spence to the sin-bin for deliberately slowing down York ball at a ruck in front of the posts.

If the visitors were to mount a fightback it had to be at the start of the second half with their man advantage but instead Heath continued to turn the screw. Brown had a try ruled out but Montgomery claimed possession for Mitchell to send Thackray over on the right, the conversion opening up a 30-point advantage.

That was as good as it got for Heath with Watson’s departure from the scrum seemingly a key factor.

Arkle crossed wide on the right for York, who gained further momentum all too late with tries from winger Gareth Singleton and centre Peter Martin, who touched down in the final minute. Martin converted the last two scores.