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RUGBY UNION: Defeat dents Beverley promotion hopes

BEVERLEY 18  – 36 HEATH (Saturday October 20)

This was a cracking game with bags of thrilling rugby.  Both sides played throughout with flair and ambition, providing plenty for the spectators to enjoy in the autumn sunshine.

For three-quarters of the game the advantage swung one way then the other.  It was only when Heath went two converted tries ahead with 20 minutes left that either side began to dominate.  Despite the loss this was much more like it from Beverley. After the dire showing of the previous week they played well here and deserved better than an 18 point defeat

Rob Smith put them ahead after three minutes with a penalty, after which the lead repeatedly changed hands.  Matthew Beasty went over in the corner for a try, converted by Ezra Hinchcliffe, to put Heath ahead, but Beverley went quickly back into the lead following a clever chip over the defence to James Graham on the wing, who gathered on the bounce and raced into the corner for a try which Smith converted.

Both sides were showing plenty of enterprise, although in the early stages Beverley struggled to get much possession.  When they did have the ball their backs looked particularly lively with some deft intricate movement.

There were some nice touches from Smith; their tackling was fearless and Luke Hazell’s elusiveness and speed was always a threat.  Up front, the lighter Beverley pack gave as good as they got.  The front row of Danny Morris, Matty Brown and Sam Kerry, when he came on, constantly took the game to their opponents.

Young Rhys Innes in the second row again had a splendid match and looks to be gaining in stature with each appearance.

A slick off-load on the Beverley line and full-back Jack Crabtree was in for a second, converted, try, putting Heath in front again at 14-10.  But again not for long . . .

The Beverley lineout was faultless all afternoon and when they won a throw on the Heath 22, the ball was driven powerfully forward by the pack before being moved out to Hazell, who went over to regain the lead at 15-14.  Smith was narrowly wide with a long-range penalty before Hinchcliffe snatched the lead back on the stroke of half-time with one for Heath.

A nice break out of defence by Beverley at the start of the second half might have brought them a try, but they were penalised in the visitors’ 22 for holding on.  The resulting long raking penalty kick took Heath up to within ten metres of the Beverley line, from where their pack drove over, with Saif Bassaada increasing the Heath lead to 24-15.

A Smith penalty then brought Beverley back to within a converted try at 18-24 and they went hard to recapture the lead.

With 20 minutes left came the defining moment of the game when Beverley failed to find touch with a penalty to the corner.  The Heath kick out of defence was hoisted high, Beverley allowed it bounce, Heath hacked on to the Beverley line, won a scrum, and left wing Harriot-Brown went over for another converted try.

At 18-31 it was now realistically all over for Beverley.  They fought hard to get back into it, but a 13 point deficit proved just beyond them.

The two packs had been well matched but the strength of the far bigger Heath forwards in the end began to take its toll.  Nonetheless, Beverley several times came close to scoring.  Sadly some good chances went begging through handling errors and some ill-advised kicking.  Heath eventually cruised home, adding another try in the dying minutes from prop Oliver Cook.

This second successive defeat has seriously dented Beverley’s promotion hopes but despite the loss it was a vastly improved performance that included flashes of scintillating rugby.  There was perhaps some consolation in that Heath are by far the best side to have visited Beaver Park this season, or at any rate the side which has played the best rugby.