Report: Bradford & Bingley 7 – 33 Cleckheaton
Cleckheaton Take the Sting Out of the Bees
Cleckheaton recommenced their league rivalry with Bradford & Bingley after a long absence of 12 seasons. That last encounter took place in April 2006 in what is now National 2 North, with The Bees winning the match 29-17 and finishing as league champions. A fresh faced Paul Turner, was the only player that took part that day, who was also playing last Saturday, eleven and a half years later. Although three other participants that are still very much involved with the club; in Carl Mason, John Porritt and Neil Gillan eagerly watched this rekindled fixture from the touch line.
The torrential rain that fell on Wagon Lane from about 15 minutes before kick-off made for a scrappy first half, with both sides coughing up possession on numerous occasions. The brightest ray of sunshine came just five minutes in when Mikey Hayward drifted zephyr-like, across the back line before hitting the after burners and storming past the Bees’ outside backs. Mike Swetman added the extras. Ronan Evans then extended Cleck’s lead to 8-0 with a penalty goal on the 25 minute mark. Bradford & Bingley enjoyed their own bright spell for the remainder of the first forty and pressed Cleckheaton hard. It looked like the visitors would weather the onslaught but a combination of determined running and momentarily undetermined defence allowed home team captain, Tom Booth, to glide in for a converted try, leaving Cleckheaton in front by a slender 8-7 at the break.
Bradford & Bingley started the 2nd period where they’d left off before the change of ends but this time Cleckheaton’s defence remained firm. Strong tackling in the middle of the park by Turner, Piercy, Plunkett and Andy and Matt Piper prevented the Bees’ onslaught. Cleckheaton eventually worked their way up field and their efforts were rewarded with another penalty goal, which was converted into 3 points by Swetman. At 11-7 the game remained in the balance. Head coach Thiu Barnard continued to work the interchanges, with Ben Thrower and James Crowther exchanging places again and Cain Crotty taking the field on the wing for Lewis Beasty, with James Wilson switching to scrum half and Alex Garden moving from wing to fullback.
Bradford Bingley looked to be tiring and Cleckheaton took full advantage with an excellent try that saw the ball travel through at least half a dozen pairs of hands before Crotty, with one of his first touches took the final pass and dived over the line. Swetman’s conversion sailed through the middle of the sticks to give Cleck an eleven point cushion. A few minutes later a superb run from Man of the Match, Jack Seddon, left the Bees’ defence clutching thin air and good support by Luke Pearson was rewarded with another Cleck try. The game looked in the bag and No 18, Crotty, added to the joy of the visiting throng when a break from Hayward left the winger to run over the top of his opposite number like the No. 18 bus, registering Cleckheaton’s 4th try and his 2nd within 10 minutes. Ronan Evans had the final word, supporting yet another Hayward break for Cleck’s 5th and final try of the game. Neither of the last two scores were converted and when the referee called an end to the fixture, Cleckheaton had earned 5 league points with a decisive 33-7 victory.
An excellent last 30 minutes from the Moorenders could not be matched by the Bees and Cleckheaton were worthy winners in the end. There is a growing camaraderie within the squad and though the season is still in its infancy, there are signs of a satisfying season to come. This weekend, for the first time in many years, Cleckheaton welcome Bridlington to Moorend. A tightly contested game is expected as Cleckheaton look to make a fortress of their home ground.