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Backs show way forward for North Ribblesdale as they beat Heath in close encounter
North Ribblesdale 25 Heath 20
Both sides took advantage of the drier conditions to produce a cracking game of open rugby.
Heath enjoyed superiority in the scrums and line-outs but Ribb had the greater firepower in the backs and scored three good tries.
They also had to be vigilant in defence as Heath possessed two quick wingers and the Ribb full back Josh McFarlane had to make three try-saving tackles on the lively Rob Thackray.
Ribb started with the strong wind in their favour, but like Heath later in the game they did not use it much.
On one occasion when Steve Moon kicked into the 22, Heath gave away a penalty which Jonathan Richards slotted over.
For the rest of the game it was running rugby and strong defence from two committed sides who, in their differing ways, brought plenty of excitement to the game.
Heath put the Ribb pack under severe pressure and at times they sent the scrum rumbling backwards at a rate of knots.
The visitors were also secure in the line-out and had the game’s outstanding forward in Ryan Hunter.
But Ribb were well served by their back row of Matt Speres, Richard Wood and John Paddley.
Speres worked wonders at the base of a retreating scrum in securing the ball for his side.
Ultimately it was the penetrating running of Simon Bolland and Ryan Gill plus the dogged defence which won this game after Richards had kicked his side into a 6-0 lead.
Ribb suffered a setback when their under-pressure scrum was further handicapped by the loss of hooker Ethan Henare to the sin bin for a high tackle.
Heath took advantage with a dominant scrum leading to a pick up by Hunter who created the opening for Thackray to score a try.
Ezra Hinchcliffe added a very difficult conversion and Heath were a point ahead.
The score seemed to have a galvanising effect on Ribb as they forced their way into the Heath half and regained the lead with an excellent try by Moon which the dependable Richards converted.
With Heath having the advantage of the wind in the second half, Ribb knew they had to put more points on the board before the break.
Speres and Wood drove forward before quick ball put Bolland away for a try which Richards converted for a 20-7 lead.
Heath started the second half full of intent as they shunted the Ribb pack back time after time.
In the line-outs Hamish Pratt and Hunter got all their own ball and some of Ribb’s but they did not take full advantage.
The pressure resulted in Luke Mellin paying a visit to the sin bin.
During his absence, Ian Downsbor-ough forced his way over for a try. Hinchcliffe’s conversion hit the post and rebounded to safety.
The visitors had their tails up and a strong blindside break by Pratt led to a try for Jack Sheldrake which reduced the lead to just three points.
Although Ribb were under the cosh up front, they were full of endeavour outside. Gill wasted a good opportunity when he was hauled down just short of the line with support at hand, but redeemed himself by chasing down a kick to score the decisive try of the game.
Ribb were not home yet and Heath hit back with only a great tackle from Gill denying Hunter of a try.
Hinchcliffe did convert a penalty to put his side within a score, but despite taking a battering in the scrum, Ribb held out.
Next up Ribb face visit title-chasing Ilkley, a side they have enjoyed success against in recent seasons.
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