Narrow losers Heath are safe

Jack Sheldrake was prominent for Heath
Jack Sheldrake was prominent for Heath

Heath are guaranteed another season in Yorkshire One in spite of losing 25-20 away to North Ribblesdale.

Kevin Plant’s side had to settle for a losing bonus point when it should have been more after a battling effort.

However, a heavy defeat for Keighley at Doncaster Phoenix means the next-to-bottom side cannot overtake the North Dean men.

Darren Neilly was unavailable so Joe Shipman came in for his first start of the season while Ezra Hinchliffe and Jack Sheldrake returned for the injured Mick Gleeson and Si Brown.

Playing against a strong wind at Settle, Heath had the worst possible start when they were offside and centre Jonny Moore put Ribb 3-0 up after two minutes.

Heath quickly re-grouped and began to take charge up front. Stephen Hare and Alex Cust were prominent and linked well with Ian Downsborough, who was starting to dominate.

Jack Sheldrake and Josh Lister made excellent runs and when Ribb hooker Ethan Henare was sin binned for a high tackle Heath had a chance to open their account.

However, the home side used the wind to their advantage and from a long kick Matt Baxendale was exposed and a penalty was awarded. Moore made it 6-0 up after 20 minutes.

The visitors hit back following a scrum on the Ribb try line. Downsborough picked out Hinchliffe and his sweet pass to Rob Thackray produced a try in the corner. An excellent conversion from Hinchliffe put the visitors 7-6 in front after 30 minutes.

However, Ribb came straight back with a try from the hardworking stand off Steve Moon, Moore converting.

As half time approached winger Simon Bolland went over for a converted try and left the home side in control at 20-7.

Hamish Pratt came on for Cust and had an immediate impact, he and Ryan Hunter commanding the line outs.

Ribb were struggling to contain the Heath attacks and when prop Luke Mellin was sin binned on 50 minutes, Downsborough went over for a try on 51 minutes. Hinchliffe’s conversion hit a post.

Heath were playing good open rugby to expose the home defence and it came as no surprise to see Sheldrake score an unconverted try on 56 minutes to narrow the gap to three points.

However, Ribb had a sting in the tail when Ryan Gill chased a long hopeful clearance and scored on 68 minutes.

Heath missed a great opportunity on 73 minutes when Sheldrake skipped passed several opponents before releasing Downsborough but with the try line begging he chose to pass to Hunter and the ball fell short.

Continued pressure eventually led to a Hinchliffe penalty but despite a frantic effort from Heath, Ribb held on.