Cleckheaton 31 – 32 Huddersfield YMCA
Heart Break at Last Minute Reversal
For the third time this season Cleckheaton let victory agonisingly slip through their fingers deep into the last minute of the match. This was an important game for both sides, who found themselves in the bottom three of the table before kick-off. Cleckheaton looked to have claimed the points that would have taken them above YMCA but like the games away at Lymm and at home to Sheffield, concentration lapsed and smart rugby was discarded to give the opposition the opportunity to swipe the points as the curtain came down.
Simon Wilson put YM on the board in the first 5 minutes with a penalty goal but for the next 20 minutes it was all Cleckheaton. The forwards were starting to dominate their opposition and recycled the ball well in tight channels. As YM’s defending pack ran out of bodies, Cleck scrum half Jack Bickerdike saw a gap and scooted through from the back of a ruck. Prop, Paul Turner, was charging up in support and caught the pass and galloped to the line. Mike Piper added the conversion. 5 minutes later Cleck applied pressure again and were winning the battle in the tight. A relieving kick from the visitors, 5m from their line, was fielded by Jack Seddon who returned well. James Wilson cleared the ruck and fast hands across the rest of the back line gave Lee Queeley space to sprint to the whitewash and ground the ball despite the desperate attentions of the last defender. The conversation attempt hit the post but Cleckheaton had taken a 12-3 lead.
Cleckheaton’s good work was being countered yet again by the concession of too many penalties. This was a lifeline to YM and gave them the possession and the field position that they were otherwise finding hard to come by. Good passing nearly put Huddersfield in at the corner but scrambling defence kept them out momentarily before the pressure told and Simon Wilson went in for the visitors first try. Wilson also added the conversion to narrow his team’s deficit to 2 points. Cleckheaton hit back after catching YM on the back foot and pummelling them with forward drives. A YM infringement saw Cleckheaton take a quick tap penalty and set up a maul which Ryan Piercy steered over for a try, the conversion from Mike Piper restored Cleck’s winning margin at 19-10. Unfortunately Cleckheaton knocked on from the restart and a reactionary catch from a player in front of the ball gave YM a kick to the corner. From the resulting line out the ball was transferred swiftly to centre field, where YM’s Adam Ryder proved too powerful to stop. Wilson added the conversion to leave the game poised at half time, 19-17 to Cleckheaton.
Huddersfield took the lead for the first time early in the second half when Ryder forced his way over again and Wilson converted. Cleckheaton’s penalty count was rising too high and has been a major factor in them conceding close games but Huddersfield were also guilty in this regard and 3 consecutive penalties put Cleck right on their line. The attack proved too much and Richard Piper got over to restore the home side’s lead. More hard work from the forwards and a couple of carries from Ewan Dowse and Matt Piper gave Cleckheaton good momentum and Jack Seddon, went close before Ryan Piercy got over for his second try. Simon Wilson a added a penalty goal to narrow Cleck’s lead to just 4 but the game seemed to be leaning the Moorenders’s way when, with 90 seconds left on the clock, they won a penalty in front of the sticks, 30m out. Unfortunately Mike Piper’s kick was not struck cleanly and landed off target and not over the dead ball line. A good return kick took play into Cleck’s 22 but the team seemed to have weathered the storm, when they got another penalty. With next to no time left to play, Cleck inexplicably decided to tap the ball rather then running down the clock kicking for touch. To compound the error, a long pass across the field was plucked out of the air by a YM interceptor. The player was stopped short of the line but eventually YM won a 5m scrum. Paul Turner was sin-binned for allegedly dropping this scrum and with a man down YM initially tried to drive forward before shipping the ball wide for Morton to score with the last action of the match. Huddersfield YM grasped victory 32-31 and retained the John Bower Trophy.
Another heart-breaking last minute reversal for Cleckheaton, which sucked the Christmas cheer from the players, coaches and supporters. Cleckheaton are in a lowly position at the end of 2015 but with small improvements on game management it could still yet be a brighter New Year.