See the match programme here : Match Programme.
This was an important game for both sides, with Driffield sitting second in the league and Heath on third just one point behind. Heath, like Old Brodleians last weekend, were promoted from Yorkshire 1 at the end of last season, and the last time Driffield had played them was in the 2012/13 season so they were an unknown quantity. Heath have had a strong start to this season with only one loss, and a draw.
Driffield had quite a few changes in the squad once again, as they continue to battle injuries and unavailability. In the backs, Johnson and Rix returned to replace Soanes and Kelly, Davies started on the wing in the place of Blacker. Up front, Blenkinsop and Pettinger started at prop, allowing Ramsden to start at hooker. Robson moved to the bench.
A large crowd and a full clubhouse, boosted by travelling supported from Heath, all looked forward to an entertaining game played on a glorious sunny autumn day.
The tone of the match was set straight from the kick-off, with both sides committing everything to attack and defence, and play ebbing back and forth. On five minutes, Heath were awarded the first scrum of the game and got a massive shove on – an ominous sign for the rest of the game.
Driffield halted the retreat and won the ball back until, on ten minutes, a great run by Robinson evading tacklers and wriggling through into the 22, was off-loaded to Pettinger to carry on. The attack failed when the ball was lost forward on the ground in the tackle.
Heath responded robustly, driving back into Driffield territory and set up a rolling maul which, given the earlier dominance in the scrum, threatened to breach the defence. Driffield stopped the drive, but gave away a penalty which Heath kicked for touch ten yards out. The inevitable catch-and-drive was stopped by Driffield, and it was clear the Driffield’s forwards were now matching Heath’s.
Slowly, Driffield worked their way out of defence and got back into the Heath half until they were awarded a penalty five yards out. Eschewing the kick, Robinson spun the ball wide, and a clever chip over the heads of the defence landed beautifully for Davies who won the race to touch it down on 23 minutes. The conversion was missed.
This prompted a strong response by Heath from the restart. The ball was won, and moved to the left-winger who galloped down the line, evading the tackle and racing round to score under posts, making an easy conversion.
Play continued with both sides giving no quarter until, a few minutes before half time, a Heath forward was shown yellow for persistent offending at the tackle. Half time came soon after with the game finely poised at 5-7.
For the first twenty minutes of the second half, the two teams traded territory although neither managed to reach the opponent’s 22. However, a penalty was given against Heath for a high tackle, and Watts took the points to take Driffield back into a narrow lead.
Shortly after the restart, Heath’s number 8 broke from back of a scrum, went blind and got into the Driffield 22. The cover tacklers managed to stop his progress, but a penalty followed and Robinson given a yellow card. Heath went for touch, but Driffield once again halted the catch-and-drive.
With no side giving any quarter, Driffield ground their way back up to the Heath 22 until the attack faltered. Play once again ebbed and flowed up and down the pitch until, with just ten minutes to go, Heath were awarded a penalty which they kicked to take the lead back.
The crowd feared that the game was lost, as the teams were so evenly matched and the clock was running down. But, Driffield grasped a half-chance and Brankley made it over the line to score a converted try and reclaim the lead. The relief of the crowd was clear – some saidthe roar could be heard in Nafferton.
All Driffield had to do was defend for the last few minutes. However, perhaps stung by losing the lead, Heath had a rare lapse of concentration, allowing Johnson to carry forward well in the centre, breaking tackles. Having reached the 22, he off-loaded to the supporting Robinson who galloped twenty yards to go in unopposed under the sticks for another converted try and a comfortable victory.
Summing up, this was another fixture like the previous weekend, when either side could have won. Heath will be disappointed to come away without a point and certainly deserved one. They played with great spirit and put in a great shift. The winning margin flattered Driffield a little, but they had worked incredibly hard and maintained their concentration, taking the few clear opportunities they could.
With Ilkley suffering a surprise defeat to Pocklington, the result takes Driffield to equal first in the league.