AFTER a flying start, Heath have rather limped to the half-way point of their Yorkshire One season.
They have arrived there in fifth place, boosted by Saturday’s against-the-odds win against a Scarborough side unable to take advantage of a raft of home absentees.
Heath were depleted before the withdrawals of locks Danny Nolan and Ian Spence, stand off Charlie Lomas and No 8 Jeffery Jones from the selected side and coach Kevin Plant was forced to call in players for a lunchtime lineout session in an effort to ensure some set piece ball.
So he was delighted with the response from his remaining men, who produced a gritty effort to hit back from a 10-0 deficit with two converted tries in the last 10 minutes of the first half, and then deny the visitors any chances in a scoreless second period.
Emergency No 8 Dave Montgomery, tight head prop Chris Moore and 17-year-old Ezra Hinchliffe at No 10 led the way for the home side, who were bouncing back from successive defeats against Pontefract and lowly Huddersfield YMCA.
“We showed a lot of spirit and that carried us through,” said Plant, who believes his side have two more decent opportunities for wins before the festive break, against bottom four sides Dinnington and Knottingley.
Heath’s makeshift team started promisingly on a pitch hit by heavy downpours, winger Matt Baxendale making ground tight to the left touchline and centre Ben Mitchell failing to hold his inside pass 15 metres from the line with only the fullback to beat.
Scarborough responded with a high kick from stand off Tom Harrison and Rob Thackray was forced to concede a five metre scrum. The home eight held firm, but a ruck offence enabled Harrison to kick the visitors in front on nine minutes.
Heath were falling foul of referee Andy Baker and Gary Pidgeon, sin binned on 16 minutes when seemingly trapped at the bottom of a ruck, showed his displeasure.
A good kick from scrum half Richard Cole, well followed up by Thackray, enabled Heath to make ground and the hosts bombed a second golden opportunity on 20 minutes when Hinchliffe was unable to hold Thackray’s pass with the line beckoning.
Karl Craven showed his strength in the centre with a couple of strong runs but full-back Simon Brown’s failure to gather a clearance on half-way left winger Corey Dennis with a run to the line, Hinchliffe getting back superbly to haul him down.
Scarborough made the most of the position, however, winger Tom Ratcliffe coming powering through two tackles in centre field to score by the posts following a scrum. Harrison converted and Heath were in trouble facing a 10-point deficit.
The response was immediate, determined forward play taking Heath close to the line at the other end and Hinchliffe handing off a rival to touch down just to the left of the posts. Mitchell converted.
Heath maintained the pressure right to the end of the half. Mitchell missed a fairly easy chance to level the scores with a penalty on 36 minutes, then Craven and Montgomery were held just short and Scarborough lost their blind side Chris Purdy to the sin bin.
The visitors might have survived up to the break but knocked on at the back of a scrum, after taking the ball against the head, and Pidgeon punished them from a quick tap penalty, driving low and hard under the cover for a try which Mitchell converted.
The second half was a low-key affair with plenty of errors from both sides.
Scarborough had just one spell in the danger zone on the back of a 48th minute penalty. Cole did well to hack the ball into touch after a kick over the top from centre Craig Farrell and the visitors made a mess of the subsequent lineout.
Pidgeon gave way to the late-arriving Jones and although Heath’s exertions were beginning to tell in the scrums, they had the better of the final quarter.
Mitchell missed with successive long-range penalties and both sides were coughing up possession before Cole exercised some control with a well-judged punt to the corner.
Scarborough mounted a last-gasp raid but with the ball going to ground and time for just one more play, Mark Puttick stole a scrum against the head and Cole jubilantly kicked the ball off the park.