A very wet and slippy North Dean surface played into Heath’s hands as they beat Bradford Salem 33-12 yesterday.
Few teams in Yorkshire One can stand toe to toe with the West Vale club’s pack when running rugby becomes difficult and Salem, who slipped to third from bottom, faded after a promising start.
A 12-12 score line was a fair reflection of the opening 40 minutes but the Heath forwards turned the screw in the scrum after that and pulled clear with three pushover tries, all converted by centre Ezra Hinchliffe.
Heath coach Dave Harrison was pleased with the response after a 27-14 defeat away to lowly but strengthened Selby the previous week and praised his front five.
He said: “We try to play an expansive, entertaining game but those plans were curtailed by the weather.”
Heath remain fourth and while they have a game in hand on Scarborough and Beverley in what looks a battle for second spot behind York, Harrison continues to set short-term targets with no talk of a promotion push at this stage.
The returns of Alex McFadden, Jason Merrie and Chris Moore to the pack could not have been more timely for Heath, who had won the first meeting at Shay Lane by 47-14 in October.
The visitors, with ex-Old Crossleyans and Halifax coach Neil Spence at the helm, produced the better handling and support play in the first half and frequently stripped the ball from Heath in the tackle.
They opened the scoring on five minutes with an unconverted try from centre Max Trueman, who finished off a long-range raid by the Salem backs.
Heath’s forwards got them out of trouble, shunting the visitors off the ball after a five metre scrum conceded by winger Callum Harriett-Brown, who then broke down the left to mount Heath’s first real threat on 17 minutes.
Three minutes later it was 5-5, Cameron Ramsden touching down after he and Hinchliffe had combined superbly down the right flank.
Skipper and No 8 Christian Baines led the charge for Salem, who produced more accurate close passing to go close in the corner, the touch judge’s flag coming to Heath’s rescue.
Heath’s lineout was as productive as their scrum and clean ball in an advanced position allowed their forwards to rumble to the line for hooker Alex McFadden to touch down.
Hinchliffe converted but Salem drew level at the end of the half. Home full back Eddie Cartwright made a fine tackle after opposite number Danny Belcher had broken through but Salem maintained the pressure and stand off Harry Hall was able to reach out for the line. Belcher converted.
Heath ramped up their intensity after the break and although Salem defended manfully there was an air of inevitability about the outcome whenever Heath got close to the visitors’ line.
Richard Brown touched down at the back of advancing scrums on 43 and 60 minutes as Heath surged into a 26-12 lead. In between, No 8 Brown had knocked on from a similar opportunity with the line at his mercy.
Heath’s set piece produced their side’s fifth and final try from back rower Merrie with three minutes left, Hinchliffe adding his fourth conversion.