BOTH Heath and Ilkley battled it out in a hard fought fixture on Saturday to earn a draw at 31 apiece.

It wasn’t long before the Dalesmen took the lead. Ben King put an inch perfect kick deep into touch. From the lineout a slick piece of back play put JH Johnson in in the corner. 5-0

In the build up Harry Harrison dislocated a finger and was replaced by Harry Boyd.

Twenty minutes of end to end rugby played at fierce pace followed. The whole Ilkley pack were prominent and were holding their own in set pieces. This despite losing prop Hugo Lawrence to a damaged rib. Ollie Ham replaced Lawrence.

Having repelled a Heath threat, Ilkley had a lineout on the Heath ten metre line.

Well won, the ball was spun out with alacrity to Kristan Dobson who beat three and skilfully fed Boyd out of the tackle to send the winger in for his first try of the match. Chuckie Ramsey added the extras. 12 - 0

The Heath response was quick, working hard for space from a lineout and then a quickly taken penalty put Boyd’s opposite number Elliott Spears in for a try. 12 - 5.

Dobson was again breaking tackles, this time setting up Alec Graham to cross the whitewash. A great response. 19 - 5.

A Heath lineout in defence was turned over by Callum Graham. Three magnificent phases set number 8 Will Addyman up for a charge at the Heath line. His pop pass set Boyd up for his hat trick try under the sticks. The Dalesmen looked well placed with a bonus point in the bag and two minutes to the break.

Those two minutes were an ominous sign of what the big Heath pack were capable of as they drove over the Ilkley line from 15 metres. The try on the stroke of half time was an unwelcome concern for the large Ilkley crowd to dwell on over the interval. Heath had clearly recognised a chink in the Dalesmens’ armour.

There was a big 40 minutes ahead for both sides.

The fears of the Dalesmen supporters on the touchline were soon to be awakened as Heath broke through several tacklers to 5 metres out but relief was at hand as Ms Parsonage blew for holding on.

After a great escape there was an even greater response as Ramsey sent an outrageous pass out wide to JH Johnson who deftly sent a pinpoint grubber for that man Boyd to snap up the ball and charge over. 31 -12.

Surely that was sufficient to play out the final quarter.

The loss of Alec Graham to a worrying shoulder injury meant that Ilkley’s last replacement Jack Leibster was called into action.

The momentum of the match changed at first imperceptibly then with a vengeance. Heath sensed the recovery was on.

The rash of penalties moved Heath into the Ilkley 22. Two more penalties and a scrum presented Heath with a third try. 31 - 17.

More pressure was soaked up with the industrious Luke Gamble leading the counters. But the big home pack kept the Dalesmen well under the cosh. A couple of marginal decisions didn’t help either, but it was some unfamiliar very poor tackling that set up a Heath try under the posts. 31 - 24. It was now a one score game with five minutes to go. The seemingly inevitable final Heath try came in somewhat bizarre fashion. Heath had Ilkley penned in their own 22. Scrums were hurting ILKLEY badly. Penalties followed. Ollie Ham was injured. Uncontested scrum. The ball went wide and Heath went over as did the the conversion for 31-31.

And reflecting on the performance post draw , Ilkley's boss Rhys Morgan, said: "It was a good game to be involved in, they had a very strong forward pack and it went right down to the wire.
"We felt we'd done enough to get the victory, but unfortunately we got hit really hard with injuries.
"In the first minute we lost Harry Harrison, our winger and in the first scrum we lost our prop and then we ended up losing one of our second rows.
"It was just one of those games where the gods transpired against us on Saturday.
"We are disappointed to lose such a big lead, but at the same time, with the circumstances we were in- we were lucky to hang on really.
"The boys put in a fantastic shift and there was one point where we managed to keep Heath out for around 15 minutes. So, I can only give praise to our lads for putting up such a fight.
"If they managed to get a second early score in the second half then I believe we would have really struggled to hold on to a draw."