Heath stamped themselves as Calderdale’s most likely Yorkshire One promotion candidates with a 29-10 derby win at home to Old Brodleians today.
The pair went into the game with only points difference separating them in third and fourth places in the table, but Dave Harrison’s side emerged as the ones with the momentum.
They made it five wins on the bounce, and extended their successful sequence against Brods to four, after taking an iron grip on the contest with three tries in the second quarter.
Centre Ezra Hinchliffe scored their final 12 points in decent conditions at North Dean and grabbed an important four-try bonus point in the closing seconds to make his side’s victory complete.
The visitors, beaten by Scarborough in Yorkshire Shield and league matches on the previous two Saturdays, were out-muscled by their across-town rivals.
Brods had to draft newly-arrived and semi-fit Samoan Lalovi Tafua into their starting line-up at prop, when Ben Burnside announced he was returning to Halifax Vandals on Thursday, and backs coach Gaz Newman came back from a rib injury at scrum half for the unavailable Joe Armitage.
Heath had a couple of front rowers missing but it mattered little as they have a rare collection of huge and effective locks and back row players for this level. Their backs are starting to look more fluent, they defended with enthusiasm and organisation, and they have a wing flyer in Callum Harriett-Brown.
As well as playing for league points and local bragging rights, the Dave Littlefair Trophy, in memory of a Heath stalwart and well-known local rugby figure, was up for grabs for the first time.
Newman was quick to make an impact, breaking blind at a scrum and dummying his way through the Heath defence to score an unconverted try wide on the right after five minutes.
Heath were already bringing forward pressure to bear and had a lengthy spell on the attack against heavily-penalised opponents.
A lack of precision, particularly in the lineout, delayed the inevitable but eventually prop Olly Cook powered over 20 metres to the left of the posts with Hinchliffe unable to convert.
Heath were bossing the scrums and breakdown. They went 12-5 up on 26 minutes when Brods stole lineout ball but missed a chance to escape when Newman’s attempted clearance was charged down. Soon after centre Jordan Bradbrook crossed wide on the left and made the kick easier for Hinchliffe, who duly added the goal.
Brods had their first decent spell in possession and centre Phil Town cut through from full back Chris Vine’s inside pass but an attempt at scoring from a driving maul was doomed to failure.
Heath open side flanker Jason Merrie ran strongly throughout but it was his turnover just inside Heath’s half which paved the way for Harriett-Brown to scorch past two tacklers and leave Hinchliffe with an easy conversion.
Leading 19-5 at the break, Heath were forced to defend in the early stages of the second period but defensive pressure forced centre Matt Carbutt to knock on.
Brods were unceremoniously shoved off their scrum ball and a couple of penalties later, Hinchliffe was adding another three points.
Alex Dawson made his presence felt off the bench for Brods and Newman had a couple of good runs as the visitors tried to rally.
Winger Tom Kill rewarded them when he escaped Harriett-Brown and Bradbrook wide out on the right to make it 22-10 on 68 minutes.
Heath gave a reminder of their forward superiority by mauling the ball 30 metres. Dan Cole’s clearance brought only temporary respite as Hinchliffe weaved past a couple of defenders and added the conversion with the game’s last act.
Harrison labelled his side’s performance as “fantastic” and felt his side had beaten Brods “comprehensively across the park”.
His Brods counterpart Matt Smith admitted the last three Saturdays had provided a reality check, after wins in their first six games, and his men had let themselves down with errors against Heath.