What a match. This was what proper rugby at its best is all about. Two sides at the top of their game going hell for leather for eighty minutes – and with never a hint of ill-temper from start to finish. The result could have gone either way. After a 66 point feast of scoring only two points separated the sides at the end and neither could have complained at the outcome whichever way it went. Beforehand there was an air of expectancy. Beverley arrived here on the back of four consecutive bonus point wins and Heath’s recent record was not much inferior.
Beverley badly needed a win to narrow the gap between them and Heath who are currently in the play-off position. A defeat and the increased deficit would almost certainly have put play-off ambitions out of sight. They got off to a perfect start with a try by Will Turnbull after three minutes which Phil Duboulay converted. Within a few minutes Heath had turned it round to 10-7. Alex Patrick crossed for a try and Ezra Hinchcliffe added the conversion then a penalty. A Duboulay penalty levelled it at 10-10 but Heath quickly restored their lead when wing Callum Harriett-Brown sprinted over in the corner.
Whenever the ball was moved wide each side looked at its most potent, but it was from a smart dummy by scrum half Rob Smith from the base of a ruck that put Beverley 17-15 ahead with a converted try under the posts. That looked likely to be the halftime score until Hinchcliffe with the last action of the half kicked a penalty to give Heath a one point advantage at 18-17.
The halftime breather was probably almost as welcome for spectators as it was for the players. From the restart the high tempo was resumed. Early on Beverley enjoyed a fifteen minute purple patch in which they added seventeen points without reply. Duboulay kicked an early long range penalty; James Graham went over after a bristling forty metre finish to round off a move started on their own 22; Turnbull reacted quickly to a chip through by Duboulay to add another, and Duboulay slotted both conversions.
In a normal game at 34-18 with only twenty minutes left the final result might have been expected to be more or less cut and dried. But not here, and it never looked like being so. Heath came back with renewed endeavour. Their big forwards were taking some holding, especially in the soft going which was still pretty wet despite the earlier rains having abated. A drive by their pack from a line-out brought them a converted try to narrow the gap to nine points. More concerted pressure and Harriett-Brown went over for another converted try with two minutes of normal time remaining.
Just as in last year’s game here it meant an edgy final few minutes for Beverley, especially as there was likely to be the best part of ten minutes time added for stoppages. All through Beverley had owed much to some fine kicking out of hand by Duboulay and Luke Hazell which had kept Heath at arm’s length and largely in their own half. In the dying minutes this gave Beverley chances themselves to put the game to bed but several promising attacks came to nothing.
Time running out and only two points in it. All Heath needed was one opening for a try or a penalty opportunity. They tried a drop goal which went wide and threw everything into a desperate attempt to salvage a win. But Beverley’s tackling had been relentless all afternoon and they held firm to come away with another five point win which has narrowed the league gap between the clubs to nine points. With only seven games left this is not going to be easy to make up but on Beverley’s present form it would be foolish to write them off. Today’s was certainly a tremendous team effort against a very good Heath side. Heroes all.