SUCCESSIVE Yorkshire One defeats either side of the Christmas break has left Heath’s season in danger of petering out.
In the wake of Saturday’s loss, which widened the gap between the fourth and fifth-placed West Yorkshire rivals to nine points, coach Kevin Plant admitted his side had “lost a bit of spark.”
The visitors were good value for their success, turning around a 9-8 deficit approaching half-time with the help of a quick hat-trick of tries from their impressive open side flanker Scott Dyson.
When winger Sam Walker cashed in on a home gaffe and helped extend the lead to 32-9 after 48 minutes the outcome was settled, although tries from Matt Hallett and Dave Montgomery enabled Heath to save a little face before the final whistle.
“We need to get some desire back from somewhere,” said Plant, who had ensured the game went ahead by helping to clear a small lake in the corner of the field nearest the clubhouse.
“It is not going to be easy, though, because we have Ilkley away next week and games against Pocklington and Driffield (third and second) coming up.”
While Plant thought his team’s performance was an improvement on that in the defeat at lowly Knottingley on December 17, he had no complaints about the result.
Keighley, who had won the first meeting 21-8 at Utley on September 24, have limitations at the set piece but more than made up for that with some strong and incisive running and some in-your-face defence which smothered the Heath backs.
They were helped by a referee who seemed reluctant to apply the laws on wheeled scrums and offside.
There was an early exchange of penalties between teams who lined up as per programme. Heath took a 6-3 lead after eight minutes with two successful shots from fullback Ben Mitchell, Keighley fly-half Alex Brown slotting one in between.
The already-influential Dyson hoovered up the ball from the restart and rampaged upfield for Keighley to win a five metre scrum. Centre Marco Ferrazzano subsequently looped around a teammate and took a return pass to score an unconverted try in the corner.
Heath blew a great chance when they created an overlap on the right but lock Danny Nolan’s pass was poor.
Brown missed a straight 27 metre penalty and Mitchell showed him how to do it on 29 minutes, cashing in after Montgomery’s break, to give the hosts a one-point lead.
The yellow carding of centre Karl Craven at a Keighley tap penalty on 31 minutes proved a turning point.
The visitors took full advantage with a brisk double from Dyson, a quick and elusive runner.
He handed off two Heath defenders for the first and then powered over to the right of the posts after home lock Miles Fairbank had initially got back to thwart the visitors from Ferrazzano’s hack forward.
Brown converted the second of the tries and the score remained 9-20 when Mitchell missed a penalty at the end of the first half.
Brown was off target from 35 metres at the start of the second period but the visitors put the game out of the home side’s reach with two tries in four minutes.
On both occasions they splashed through the reappearing lake, which was being replenished by an overflowing stream running close to the main road.
The irrepressible Dyson completed his three-timer following good work by scrum half Lucas Uren on the short side following a driving maul, Brown converting from the touchline.
When Heath’s Simon Brown dropped the ball just inside his own half, Walker snapped it up and sprinted down the touchline to score an unconverted try on 48 minutes.
The home side responded with an excellent individual try from returning left winger Matthew Hallett, who weaved his way past a clutch of defenders. Charlie Lomas, who had replaced the injured Mitchell, made it 16-32 with the conversion.
Alex Brown missed an easy penalty on 67 minutes but play remained in the home half, where Richard Cole was sin-binned for dissent after his opposite number Uren had prevented him getting the ball away from the back of a scrum when seemingly offside.
Heath still had the final say on 74 minutes, Montgomery going over for an unconverted try after Hallett had run close to the line from a tapped penalty.