Woe for Crocs as Heath double up

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Heath nudged derby rivals Old Crossleyans into the Yorkshire One drop zone with a 25-5 derby win amid wintry showers yesterday.

With Crocs’ Broomfield pitch unfit, the match was switched to nearby Kensington, a ground used by Heath Grammar School until the merger to form The Crossley Heath School in 1985.

The visitors clearly felt at home there, making the most of limited possession and coming through to win comfortably with the help of 15 unanswered points in the final quarter.

Heath were completing a double over their close rivals, having won 42-13 in considerably better conditions at North Dean on October 10.

Victory, after a barren run stretching back to mid-November, leaves them only three points behind faltering local rivals Old Brodleians while Selby’s losing bonus point in a 14-7 defeat at North Ribblesdale took the North Yorkshire side above Crocs.

Play started in a heavy and prolonged hail storm and Crocs shook off the loss of first choice goal kicker Ryan Sweeney with a shoulder injury to dominate the forward exchanges.

With the help of a couple of scrums taken against the head and lineout ball from Raman Sembi they had a decent base from which to operate.

Unfortunately for the hosts, they appeared to start with too many square pegs in round holes in their back line and Heath’s line speed in defence and tackling was excellent.

Matt Baxendale, who replaced Callum Harriett-Brown on the flank in Heath’s only change from the team narrowly defeated by York seven days earlier, sped down the bottom touchline for Heath’s opening try on 11 minutes.

He narrowed the gap for Ezra Hinchliffe to convert at the start of an improved goalkicking display.

Crocs continued to set the pace and a lineout drive, which took them to within five metres of the Heath line, set up a prolonged assault but Heath escaped.

Rival front rowers Reuben Pollard and Alex McFadden were at the centre of a midfield melee as the players found an alternative way to keep warm.

The introduction of Mark Puttick and Ryan Hunter after half an hour helped to stabalise Heath’s scrum but it was still a rarity for the visitors to get their hands on the ball.

When they finally did, young fly-half Jack Crabtree put in a grubber kick, Crocs’ Gareth Sweeney was the only man back and Heath won a penalty which Hinchliffe kicked for 0-10 on 34 minutes.

Crocs’ efforts were finally rewarded at the end of the half when flanker Cameron Brannon scored for the second week running, going over from close range but too wide out for Chris Vine to convert.

The hosts continued to force the pace after the break, Gareth Sweeney was held up over the try line and Crocs had several scrums in advanced positions.

They turned down an easy chance of three points in search of a try and that proved a turning point. Play swept to the other end and when Sembi was offside, Hinchliffe stretched the lead to 13-5 after 61 minutes.

The home side’s handling errors were starting to mount and their fate was sealed following Hinchliffe’s diagonal kick to the corner. When Crocs tapped lineout ball back inaccurately, visiting scrum half Dom Walsh pounced.

Crocs were losing their discipline and big No 8 Cayci Pearson was sin-binned for offside.

Heath flanker Howard Hanks scampered to within sight of the try line and the visitors’ scrum belatedly got on top and earned a penalty try converted by Hinchliffe with two minutes left.