Phoenix rise to overturn Heath lead

Heath's Ezra Hinchliffe goes for goal against Doncaster Phoenix
Heath's Ezra Hinchliffe goes for goal against Doncaster Phoenix

Heath were given a lesson in surprise attacking rugby by a strong, physical Doncaster Phoenix team and were beaten 43-20 on their trip to the Yorkshire One joint-leaders.

The visitors competed well for long periods and led 13-5 but were hit by a Doncaster onslaught either side of half time.

Ewan Miller, Cameron Ramsden and Jack Sheldrake were missing from the team which had beaten North Ribblesdale at home the previous week and in came Rob Thackray, Sam Pollard and Josh Lister, while Zac Dewhirst kept his place after impressing.

Playing on the huge pitch of National Three team Doncaster Knights, Heath could have had the perfect start when Doncaster were pulled up for crossing but Ezra Hinchliffe’s penalty was just wide.

From the re-start Heath continued to press and Dominic Walsh and Hinchliffe linked well before releasing Dewhirst and Si Brown but the move fell away.

Doncaster’s first foray into the Heath 22 came after seven minutes and a tackle from Olly Cook prevented a score before Donny knocked on. From the scrum No 8 Hamish Pratt peeled away with the ball before releasing the supporting Alex Cust. When Darren Neily and Zac Dewhirst broke free Rob Thackray made more ground.

Heath were doing well but the home side were starting to run strongly and with an astute kicking game were beginning to find holes in the Heath defence.

On 15 minutes Doncaster opened their account when No 8 Chris Planchant collected the ball 20 metres out and stormed over for an unconverted try.

Undeterred, Heath continued to try and run the ball. Josh Lister had a great charge down the wing but had no support.

With Neily, Chris Moore and captain Mark Puttick barging down the middle of the field, Phoenix were penalised for holding on and up stepped Hinchliffe to make it 5-3 after 20 minutes.

Phoenix were under pressure and gave away another penalty on 22 minutes, Hinchliffe kicking the visitors in front.

The game was wide open. Lister was again involved in a long chase for the ball before Donny’s full back Dan Lovell cleared.

Cust caught the clearance and although he lost the ball a charge down from Brown saw play back in the Donny 22 and Cust picked up the loose ball and went over for a try on 25 minutes. The easy conversion by Hinchliffe saw Heath 13-5 up and in control.

However, Phoenix turned things around in the next 15 minutes. With Heath making several mistakes, centre Craig Deakin scored on 35 minutes and Lovell on 38 minutes to leave Doncaster 17-13 in front as the referee blew for half time.

Doncaster came out with all guns blazing and hit the visitors with an onslaught of attacking rugby.

On 41 minutes Lovell scored his second try, converted by Storey.

Then, when Heath failed to win line out ball, second row Ross Owen crashed over for an unconverted try and 29-13 lead after 46 minutes.

Heath coach Kevin Plant sent on Duncan Edwards, Kofi Brobbey and Peter Birkett for Cook, Walsh and Pratt but before they had time to come to terms with the speed of the game Owen added a further converted try.

When prop Joe Lowcock popped up to make it 43-13 it was game over.

Heath continued to battle and on 70 minutes Ryan Hunter, Pollard and Stephen Hare linked well before Cust, who was having a good game, was bundled into touch.

Pollard then linked with Dewhirst and Edwards and as full time approached Peter Birkett took a tap penalty on half way and evaded several tackles before going under the posts for a converted try.

They host second bottom Keighley next week in a must-win encounter.