Plucky Heath’s battling display

Doncaster Phoenix v Heath'Ian Downsborough
Doncaster Phoenix v Heath'Ian Downsborough

Heath’s revival was ended by a 36-3 defeat away to Yorkshire One maximum men Doncaster Phoenix but the scoreline did little justice to their battling line-up.

Coach Kevin Plant cannot have anticipated a hangover from Black Friday into Saturday - he had only 15 players from which to construct a team.

Junaid Malik and Jacob Storey made their first XV debuts while Martyn Barnes and Darren Neilly played out of position.

Oblivious to the rugby pedigrees which confronted them, Heath’s makeshift side put up a fine display in front of the serried ranks of empty seats at the home of Doncaster Knights.

Heath harassed their hosts into error after error with an excellent defensive display which saw them only 5-3 down just before half time.

Olly Wilby was yellow-carded within the first 10 minutes for a deliberate knock on as Doncaster’s big forwards stormed down the hill.

As Doncaster kept spilling the ball, Heath managed to clear through good kicks from Storey, Dom Walsh and Ezra Hinchliffe.

Malik stood firm in the centre alongside Si Brown. Twice Rob Thackray almost escaped but was tackled into touch. There was no score during Wilby’s absence.

Heath’s forwards contained their larger counterparts.

Ian Downsborough, Jack Blackhall and Wilby were all over the field; Fergus Marsden came of age as a tower of strength in the lineout and he tackled and ran as never before, alongside Martyn Barnes; and Neilly; Mark Puttick and Alex McFadden held their own in the front row.

Doncaster did show glimpses of why they are firmly ensconced at the top of the table with No 8 Peacey and second row Byrne conspicuous and fullback Deakin always a danger.

One of the home wingers opened the scoring with an unconverted try on 22 minutes but Hinchliffe nailed a penalty for Heath on 36 minutes.

Just before half time the home forwards executed a series of pick-and-drives near the Heath line which eventually yielded an opening for Deakin to make it 10-3 at the break.

Doncaster used their rolling maul to tire Heath’s forwards. They turned down a very kickable penalty in favour of a kick to touch near the Heath line.

Following a scrum, a perfectly weighted long pass put Doncaster’s outstanding centre Ellis through a gap to score near the posts and Deakin’s kick made it 17–3 on 53 minutes.

Puttick had been injured several times but stayed on the field and Barnes had to go off for running repairs.

Doncaster worked the substitution laws to good effect, bringing on fresh legs at regular intervals, and 20 minutes into the second half their left wing Fowler just beat the cover defence for a 22–3 lead.

The hosts blew a good chance when the ball was passed into touch but second row scored from a five metre scrum and Deakin converted on 70 minutes.

Heath immediately showed their mettle, attacking the Doncaster line. A blatant knock-down of the ball by the Doncaster winger prevented what looked like a certain try but neither a yellow card nor penalty try followed.

The visitors continued to attack but Doncaster broke away and only superb cover tackling denied them a try.

However, they had the final word when Brown was offside and Ellis burst through for his second try, converted by fly-half Steadman.