Heath kept their Yorkshire One promotion hopes alive with a 20-17 home win over Scarborough yesterday in a fixture billed in some quarters as the most important in the division so far this season.
Heavy conditions played into the hands of the North Dean club’s pack but Dave Harrison’s side needed two late penalty misses from visiting centre Tom Ratcliffe to hang on after leading 17-7 shortly before the hour mark.
A glance at the league table will suggest Heath are in the box seat to take the runners-up berth behind likely champions York and earn a promotion play-off game against north east opposition.
They are one point behind Scarborough in third with a game in hand. However, while the seasiders have three games against modest opposition to come, Heath have to play York twice and host fourth-place Middlesbrough after next week’s trip to bottom side Wheatley Hills.
Heath were completing a notable double over Scarborough following their 26-17 at Silver Royd on November 4.
Every drop of overnight rain helped the cause of their pack, who made life difficult for the visitors with their scrum power and driving mauls. However, the hosts conceded far too many penalties under the nose of a referee who was always on top of the action.
Scarborough have a reputation for attacking with flair and alarm bells were sounding for the home side as early as the fifth minute when Ratcliffe easily dummied his way through the centre of their defence, adding the easy conversion.
Heath responded strongly, shunting Scarborough off their scrum ball, and Ezra Hinchliffe’s low, angled kick created the position for prop Olly Cook to plough over on 12 minutes.
Hinchliffe’s floated conversion made it 7-7 and the centre was narrowly off target with a straight drop goal attempt from 25 metres after the home forwards had mauled the ball forward 30 metres.
Scarborough were unable to escape from defence and Heath scrum half Peter Birkett forced his way over by the left upright on 21 minutes and Hinchliffe’s conversion made it 14-7.
A Heath knock on from the restart enabled Scarborough to have a spell on attack. The east coast side broke through relatively easily a couple of times but a knock-on and then a pass to a nonexistent teammate and into touch undermined their efforts.
Heath, who had lost full back Eddie Cartwright to a leg injury, might have scored from a charged down kick on the resumption but knocked on five metres out and play swung to the other end where the visiting hooker went over but the pass to him was well forward.
Hinchliffe missed a 35 metre penalty but made amends from close range to stretch the lead to 17-7 on 57 minutes.
Scarborough were quick to reply, their stand off fielding Jack Crabtree’s clearance and stepping through the cover for winger Jonty Holloway to surge over in the corner.
Ratcliffe added a fine conversion and a 64th minute penalty to leave the game in the melting pot at 17-17.
Hinchliffe kicked what proved to be the decisive penalty on 67 minutes. His counterpart Ratcliffe had been slotting goals with ease but the pressure clearly told with his 75th minute miss and then a final miscue when he looked odds-on to give Scarborough a share of the spoils with the game’s last act.
Harrison was away, having apparently been assured that league games never took place on Easter Saturday. His assistant Mark Sales said that a solid performance from the pack, led by returning No 8 Richard Brown, had helped his side bag a vital victory.