York Rugby Union Club were crowned champions of Yorkshire One and secured promotion to the North East One with a 25-25 home draw with Heath
It’s been one hell of a season for Head Coach Lee Denham’s men, who have won promotion with 3 games to spare and are now un-catchable by second placed Scarborough.
Late drama at Clifton Park saw York come from 25-15 down to fight back and earn a draw right at the death to set up huge celebrations at the final whistle.
Halifax outfit Heath were the leading side right up until the very end, but champions never say die, and that proved to be the difference for a resurgent York team.
A tough start
It was never going to be easy against a Heath side who were well in form having won their last 6 coming into this one. That’s the way it proved to be.
The visitors were the better side from the off, and they were in front on 5 minutes when Sam Pollard linked with Simon Brown, who signed off the move with an un-converted try in the corner to give Heath a 5-0 lead.
That lead was extended further when York were penalised for back-chat to the referee and an offside. Ezra Hinchcliffe kicked the resulting penalty to notch the lead up to 8-0.
The game got a little heated after that, as Heath prop, Oliver Cook made heavy contact with York inside centre Sam Potrykus. Heavy protests from York’s Joe Maud and captain Sam Forbes earned them both a stint in the sin bin.
Hinchcliffe kicked the resulting penalty, and York were now 11-0 behind and down to 13 players.
Finally, after 33 minutes, York got a foothold in the game. They drove forward and winger Rob Hodges chipped over the Heath defence, re-gathered and touched down York’s first try of the game. John Dawes missed the conversion though, leaving the score at 11-5.
York’s two sin-binned players returned soon after, and they started to gain momentum.
On 33 minutes, they scored again when a tight carry by Daz Rutherford allowed Steve Johnson to release Shane Goulding in space to crash over the line. The conversion was missed once more, but the game was now well within the balance.
However, it was the visitors who went into half time the stronger side. On 37 minutes, Heath were stopped a metre out from the line, but the ball was re-cycled and Jason Merrie took full advantage.
The conversion was good and York trailed 10-18 at half time.
So close, but so far
There must have been some strong encouragement from Lee Denham at half time, as York began the second half with much more hunger and desire.
Some valiant last ditch defending by Heath kept them in the lead for the first 20 minutes, but York breached their defence eventually.
On 60 minutes, Joe Maud twice went very close to the Heath line, before Toby Atkin stretched and scored from the base of a ruck.
A bad day at the office for Dawes continued when he missed his third conversion chance, meaning York were still 3 points behind at 18-5.
Heath managed to re-group after that, and after York were reduced to 14 players once more, Sam Pollard off-loaded to the supporting Lee Brown, who in turn released Jordan Moana to score Heaths third try on 66 minutes.
Hinchcliffe kicked the conversion with ease and Heath were 15-25 ahead with fifteen minutes remaining.
York were in trouble now, with just 15 minutes to play, they needed 10 points from somewhere or they would lose only their second game of the season.
They were handed a huge advantage when Simon Brown and Richard Brown were both sent to the sin bin for consecutive high challenges, and Heath were now hanging on with two men out of action.
The pressure told with 5 minutes remaining, as Toby Atkin took advantage of an uncontrolled ball at the base of a defensive Heath scrum to score. John Dawes finally kicked the conversion and York were now just three behind.
A frantic finale followed. Heath were back up to 15 men when Merrie and Richard Brown came back on to the field, and both sides went hammer and tong at each other for the final few minutes.
However, right at the death, York were awarded a penalty and after tough afternoon for Dawes, the full-back stepped up and successfully kick the 3-pointer to put York back on level terms.
Heath went straight back on the attack from the restart, but York retained possession and put the ball dead to end a magnificent game of rugby, which neither team deserved to lose.
York, with two points for a draw and a bonus point for scoring four tries secured the league championship and automatic promotion to the 6th tier of English Rugby Union. Well done boys!