HEATH were beaten 34-14 away to Middlesbrough, a side tipped by many for promotion from Yorkshire One, in yesterday’s season-opening fixture.
Two late tries gave the scoreline a lop-sided look as Heath ran out of steam but the visitors had to cope with injuries and perhaps did not get the rub of the green.
Dave Harrison’s visitors were already without skipper Ian Downsborough, Jason Merrie and Jordan Moana, and Olly Cook pulled out in the warm up, so Paddy Kerr was drafted in at prop.
There were starts for Fergus Marsden, Martyn Barnes and the Cole brothers, Dan and Jonny, while Jacob Storey made a welcome return on the wing. The bench comprised Mark Puttick, Michael Reynolds and Seiffe Boussadda.
In superb, sunny conditions, Heath started well with centres Ezra Hinchliffe and Eddie Cartwright making strong runs before Barnes and Richard Brown ploughed into the home defence.
Middlesbrough held firm and mounted their first attack but Dan Cole had his kicking boots on and returned the pressure.
The Heath pack were beginning to take control. A surge from Jonny Cole led to Hinchliffe throwing a long pass to the supporting Jack Crabtree but the ball was fumbled.
The breakthrough came on 18 minutes from a line out won by Matt Beasty. Brown, Jonny Cole and Alex McFadden made drives and Dan Cole scooped up the ball and jinked over. Hinchliffe converted.
From the re-start Brown collected and bore through several attempted tackles before Dan Cole ran 40 metres.
Middlesbrough responded and began to penetrate the Heath defence, eventually scoring a converted try on 25 minutes through Connor Foley, converted by fellow Durham County player Peter Homan.
The home side were gaining confidence and took the lead with a Honan penalty on 28 minutes. He then converted Foley’s second try to make it 17-7 on 34 minutes.
Heath continued to work hard but Middlesbrough finished the half in control.
Puttick and Boussaada replaced Kerr and Beasty but the home side added another five points on 45 minutes through lock Andy Marron.
Heath’s response was immediate. Dan Cole put in a clever kick and Storey scooped up the ball, evaded a couple of tackles and scored in the corner. Hinchliffe’s superb conversion made it 22-14.
The next 10 minutes saw both sides batter each other. When Callum Harriett-Brown and Eddie Cartwright linked up, only a pass ruled forward prevented a score.
Heath turned down shots at goal when Middlesbrough were penalised and Brown, Boussadda, Chris Moore and Alex McFadden could not penetrate the home defence.
Middlesbrough’s county prop Kieran Clark rubbed salt in the visitors’ wounds by adding a bonus point try, converted by Homan, on 75 minutes.
Dan Cole was injured in trying to prevent the score and when Crabtree was sin-binned, full back Brendan Hill’s try completed the scoring.