Report: Cleckheaton 28 – 26 Bridlington
Tight at the end but Cleckheaton win first game at Home
After two warm up matches on the road and two away league games, this Saturday Cleckheaton finally got to play at Moorend for the first time this season. The Spen Valley men would dearly like to make a fortress of their home ground and certainly improve on last years record, which was far from great. Bridlington on the other hand having won one and lost one so far in this year’s North 1 East campaign had other ideas. A deft little chip over Cleckheaton’s outside backs and a single bounce into hand created a scoring opportunity, which Bridlington gratefully took in the opening three minutes. The conversion meant that Cleckheaton immediately found themselves seven points in arrears.
Bridlington continued to press Cleckheaton after the restart with the deceptive wind not helping Cleck to clear their lines. Brid looked almost certain to go further ahead when the last pass beat Cleckheaton’s fullback and the visitors’ winger was heading to the try line. As he was about to dive in, Mike Hayward, flying like an Exocet missile, having sprinted at full pelt for over 50m, crashed in to the side of the player and effected a superb try saving tackle. A few minutes later Hayward made an excellent break of his own and would have surely scored if not for the fact that he pulled up with a hamstring strain 15m from the line and had to limp from the field. Lewis Beasty also had to go off with a wrist injury. James Wilson moved into the scrum half position and on the half hour mark gave a looping pass to Matt Piper just outside Brid’s 22. The robust centre, who is also Cleckheaton’s Captain, charged for the line throwing aside two would be tacklers before forcing his way onto the whitewash. Mike Swetman added the conversion to level the game.
2 minutes before half time Cleckheaton fumbled the ball near their own try line leading to a 5m scrum for Brid. A defensive slip by Cleck saw their back line stretched and the visitors centre was able to drift through for Bridlington’s second try. The conversion was missed but at the break Cleckheaton were trailing 12-7
The second half started well for Cleckheaton when Jack Seddon, who had been excellent in the air all game, set off on a barnstorming run. The No.8, passed the ball to Cain Crotty who took his fellow wing man in field, before passing outside to Man of the Match James Wilson, who dived in at the corner to level the scores once more. Cleckheaton extended their lead when pressure led to two penalty kicks, which Mike Swetman converted to put Cleckheaton 18-7 ahead. Josh Plunkett extended this when he picked up a ball at the back of a ruck and slipped through a gap in front of him. Swetman added the extras and Cleck looked in control. Bridlington were not done however and threw the ball around with vigour. The visitors were rewarded with a long-range effort that they converted to narrow the gap to 6 points. Cleckheaton had numbers over when the referee gave a penalty close to Brid’s line at the same time as showing the visitors 2nd row a yellow card. A scrum was a possible call but the team chose the percentages option and went for goal to extend their lead beyond a converted try. Later this would prove vital. Following the restart Cleck pressured Brid’s line again and their lead, now 28-19 looked like it was about to be extended. Just then a Brid player ripped the ball from Cleckheaton’s hands and with a few passes the visitors found themselves down field and under Cleckheaton sticks. The conversion narrowed the scores to a very tight 28–26. With 2 minutes left to play noticeable nail biting was prevalent around the touch line, however Cleckheaton managed to control the restart effectively and when Brid knocked on and the referee blew the final whistle, Cleckheaton were able to claim a 100% start to their home record this season.
The victory left Cleckheaton with a number of injuries which they will have to manage as they go into next week’s game away at Driffield.