LACK of match practice told as an off-the-pace Heworth ARLC fell 17-4 at home to Saddleworth in National Conference division two.

The Villagers' had last taken the field in the league almost a month ago, and the in-form visitors always looked the sharper of the two sides in this encounter.

Heworth actually had the best of the first half hour and a good part of the second half, but their inability to keep hold of the ball or break down a resolute Saddleworth defence proved the difference.

The match was deadlocked until the 29th minute when right wing Fraser Coley went over in the corner from an Emerson Jackson pass. With Heworth's defence now breached, Coley scored his second try four minutes later when, after some good drives - particularly from second rower James Rogers - the Oldham side moved the ball wide to put Coley in for the score.

Trailing by eight points at half-time, Heworth again started the brighter in the second period but were unable to close the deficit. Saddleworth were reduced to 12 men with 15 minutes left when James Whalley was sin-binned for holding down in the tackle.

And Heworth made the extra man count when, just two minutes later, scrum-half Leigh Rientoul broke the Saddleworth defence and found fast supporting second rower Ian Jones who went over for a good try.

Hooker Carl Potter was unable to convert, but the Villagers' were now well and truly back in the game and it began to look like they might be able to rescue a result.

But this new found optimism suffered a huge setback on 71 minutes when Danny Atherton slotted a penalty for Saddleworth and a 10-4 lead after Heworth were guilty of holding down in the tackle.

Adam Kirwan popped over a drop goal with five minutes left to rule out any Heworth comeback, and hooker Neil Kirwan scored an opportunist try, which was converted by Atherton to seal a 17-4 victory.

The result leaves Heworth in mid-table on 15 points - 11 adrift of leaders Waterhead.