An Ezra Hinchliffe drop goal with four minutes left snatched a 16-15 win for Heath in yesterday’s mid-table Yorkshire One derby against Old Brodleians at North Dean.
However, the home supporters had their hearts in their mouths as a 35 metre penalty from the visitors’ Ollie Akroyd smacked against the left-hand upright in the dying seconds.
The kickers provided a dramatic conclusion to a fluctuating contest as Heath atoned for their 15-3 defeat in the away fixture at Woodhead in November.
Dave Harrison’s side had rolled over rather meekly on that occasion and their prospects of success looked fairly remote at half time yesterday.
It wasn’t so much the scoreline, as they only trailed 15-7, but the fact that they had been dominated up front and pinned back in their own half for almost the entire 40 minutes.
However, it was a different story after the break as the introduction of talisman Ian Downsborough energised Heath while Brods retreated into their shells with key trio Rob Jennings, Luke Scrimshaw and Dom Georgiou all off injured.
Centre Hinchliffe scored all Heath’s points, adding two penalties and the decisive drop goal to his first half converted try for a victory which coaches from both sides felt the hosts had just deserved.
The Hipperholme men, with Phil Town switched to stand off for the absent Liam Scott, went into the game looking for a fifth straight win and their confidence was soon apparent.
They unceremoniously shunted Heath off their own scrum ball and their lineout was varied and excellent. Their attack was predictable, however, as they continually looked to powerful No 8 Scrimshaw to make inroads in midfield.
Heath defended strongly, forcing knock-ons, and they did well at the breakdown with back rower Josh White leading the scavengers.
Akroyd missed an early penalty following a high tackle but notched an easy three points when Heath were offside on 15 minutes.
Brods pressed continually but their defence was found wanting from Heath’s only attack of the half on 24 minutes.
One chance went begging when Sam Pollard was tackled with Callum Harriott-Brown free outside him but Hinchliffe soon sped round prop Josh Cricknay and added the easy goal to give Heath a 7-3 advantage.
Brods regained the lead five minutes later when strong centre Nathan Scott paved the way for young winger Ben Barron to race in but Akroyd was unable to convert from midway out to the touchline.
Hinchliffe was short and wide with an ambitious penalty shot and when Heath were caught out by a short 22 metre restart for the second time in the half, Callum Thompson and Town created the position for Scrimshaw to plunge over from close range on 36 minutes. Akroyd converted.
The tide turned at the start of the second half with Scrimshaw and Georgiou departing simultaneously and the introduction of the all-action Downsborough, unable to train during the week and so on the bench, visibly lifting the home side.
Hinchliffe narrowed the game with penalties after 43 and 49 minutes and in between scrum half Dom Walsh might have scored but for planting a foot on the touchline.
The likes of Thompson, Matt Raven and Bob Sykes were battling hard for Brods, who now had fullback Matt Hoyle at scrum half, but the ball was coming straight back from Town’s clearances.
Heath almost made it to the try line on three occasions and with time running out Hinchliffe dropped into the pocket.
His first drop goal attempt dipped under the bar from 35 metres but his second, from closer range, was successful.
Akroyd almost grabbed the lead back for Brods but when the visitors lost possession one last time, Walsh gleefully kicked the ball into the stand.