Ilkley 32 Heath 20
Heath travelled to Ilkley in Yorkshire One desperate to improve their season after the embarrassing defeat at Scarborough last week.
Welcome returns were club captain Dave Montgomery along with James Watson and Jamie Richardson in the scrum and Rob Thackeray to the backs.
Ilkley kicked off and immediately put Heath under pressure; after two minutes Ben Littlewood gave away a penalty for not releasing and Mike Cachia converted for Ilkley to take a 3-0 lead.
Undeterred, Heath came straight back on the attack with great runs from Montgomery, Watson and Mark Puttick but they could not break the home defence.
Ilkley eventually conceded a penalty after 15 minutes. Charlie Lomas stepped up to level the scores at 3–3.
Littlewood was having an impact on the game and a great kick from him set up position. He then followed it up with a break through a fairly static defence but the home line remained intact and it was Ilkley who nearly scored. Only a great covering tackle from Lomas prevented a try.
But at the subsequent scrum, prop forward Ben Fear was gifted a try for the home side on 25 minutes and this was converted by Cachia to make the score 10–3.
On 30 minutes, Jarrod Morris came on for Thackeray. Chris Moore was adjudged to have tackled an Ilkley player illegally and a penalty was awarded, but it was missed and Heath were still in the game.
A rejuvenated Heath side was proving capable of running through several phases of play, with half-backs Dominic Walsh and Giles Hetherington orchestrating events.
Heath were exerting continued pressure but the Ilkley No 10, Cachia, intercepted a pass on his own tryline and ran practically the length of the field before Lomas made another superb covering tackle for the ball to run dead. Half time followed with Heath well in the game.
Heath slotted straight back into the groove when the second half started and they attacked the home side.
Ilkley’s lock Steve Burns was sin-binned for breaking the scrum on 50 minutes and after a succession of scrums took Heath within five metres of the tryline, the referee awarded them a penalty try, converted by Lomas to level the scores at 10–10.
From the restart, Watson was deemed to have knocked the ball out of Kris Stafford’s hand. The resulting penalty was missed for Ilkley.
But Heath did not regroup fast enough and fullback Stuart Vincent scored an unconverted try on 58 minutes to put Ilkley ahead at 15–10.
From the kick off, Montgomery pressured the receiver who gave away a penalty for Lomas to convert and make the score 15–13 on 59 minutes.
The game was being played at breakneck speed. On 61 minutes Morris attempted to catch an Ilkley clearance kick but the ball went into touch.
Heath were caught napping when Ilkley took a quick lineout and Mark Kirby went over for them to lead 20-13.
The frantic pace continued and Ilkley kicked through. A chase was on but Lomas won the contest.
At the scrum, Ilkley won the ball and slick passing put Craig Barker through, unopposed, under the post for a try converted by Cachia: 27-13 and time ticking by.
Back came Heath and Lomas and Si Brown combined to set up the next attack. From the scrum, Montgomery, Walsh and Moore linked well but the home defence stood firm. With full time approaching, Kirkby scored another try in the corner but the conversion was missed: 32–13.
Heath were not down and skilful play was rounded off by Luke Clogher going over wide out for a try which Lomas converted to make the score 32–20.
Heath were now rampant, with Hetherington, Clogher, Olly Cook and Watson linking to charge forward, reduce the points deficit and earn a bonus point.
Walsh was superb in stealing the ball and setting up a last gasp final attempt and Clogher looked to score. However, Ilkley got possession, put the ball out of play and the referee blew for full time.
This was an excellent and much-improved performance from Heath and, although they lost, they fully deserved to have got something out of the game. It will not be long before they see that illusive first victory.