Heath aim to replicate past Twickenham glory in Papa John's final

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More than 20 years since their last appearance at Twickenham, Heath will be chasing cup glory at the home of English rugby once again this weekend.

Heath face Barnstaple in the Papa John’s Regional 1 Championship final and they will be hoping to replicate the Twickenham victory they enjoyed in 2002 when they beat Bromley 16-10 in the Powergen Junior Vase.

Captain on that special day was David Harrison and although he has long since hung up his playing boots, he will still be in the thick of the action as the Heath Director of Rugby.

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Harrison has built up a strong backroom team with head coach Mark Sales, forwards coach Rob Anderson, fitness coach Spencer Blackmore and player coaches Chris Johnson and Josh Crickmay.

Joe Morrison scored a try in Heath's semi-final win over York last weekend. Pic: Bev CloughJoe Morrison scored a try in Heath's semi-final win over York last weekend. Pic: Bev Clough
Joe Morrison scored a try in Heath's semi-final win over York last weekend. Pic: Bev Clough

“The coaching team all with their areas of expertise have been outstanding in their efforts to best prepare the lads both mentally and tactically,” Harrison said.

This will be Sales’ last game as head coach before he returns to his boyhood club Morley.

Heath will be hoping to end a fine season with a flourish, having finished second in Regional 1 North East, just missing out on promotion to the National League by two points.

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Discussing his squad selection Harrison said: “The squad is at strength. We have kept faith with the lads that have delivered in the last few games leading us to the final.

"To get the result on such an illustrious stage would top off another very successful campaign, with a second-place finish in a very competitive league.”

The backline featuring 20-try winger Joe Morrison, who has recently been called up to the Yorkshire senior squad, speedster Callum Harriot-Brown, the elusive Ezra Hinchliffe and Elliott Spiers will hope to capitalise on the wide-open Twickenham surface.

Full-back Dan Cole and the experienced half-back pairing of Dom Walsh and Chris Johnson will look to steer the troops, with all three having an astute kicking game in their armoury.

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The front row is led by Josh Crickmay who is capable of thunderous defence, try machine hooker Jack Pilcher and 300-cap interception king Chris Moore while the second row features the big and strong pairing of powerhouse Tunisian international Saif Boussaada and workhorse Pete Hampshire.

The back row contains captain Harvey Keighley-Payne who leads by example, covering every blade of grass on the field, and at blindside is Ben Stringer who is a key component of the Heath line-out.

Completing the pack is number eight Tom Clough who has become a huge crowd favourite at West Vale with some breathtaking carries.

On the bench is a good mix of experience and youth and all are more than capable of holding their own in the starting line-up.

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Jack Malthouse is a classy centre, Olly Cook has nearly 300 first team appearances and is a rare goal-kicking prop while Alex Patrick and youngster Tom Stansfield provide cover for the second and back rows. Johnny Cole and Alex McFadden can cover the back row but the latter also has more than 200 appearances at hooker and recently had a long spell as the starting hooker.

Completing the bench is young scrum-half Max Rowntree who is one to watch in the future.

With warm weather predicted, the backroom staff of Andy Roy, Alf Baxter and Rick Painter will have their work cut out to keep the players hydrated, while physio Paramesh Mistry will be hoping for a quiet day.

The Heath players will be roared on by their faithful band of supporters who have followed them around the country in the last few years as they have risen into the regional leagues.

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President John Hall said: “Twenty-two years after out last appearance at Twickenham, for our boys to have the opportunity to run onto the hallowed field at a level we could not have dreamed of in 2022 is quite frankly astonishing.”

The game kicks off at 5pm and will be streamed live on the RFU YouTube channel. The link will be made available on the club’s Facebook page and website.

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