Match Report: Cleckheaton 8 – 19 West Leeds
Cleckheaton go two men down and the points slip away
A disappointing day at the office for Cleckheaton where lapses in discipline coupled with the kicking prowess of West Leeds’ stand-off, Dale Breakwell, ultimately cost the home team. The game saw each side score only one try but the 4 penalty goals for the visitors, coupled with a try they scored when Cleckheaton were two men down due to cards being being shown, saw the league points slip away.
Cleck started with some good news and some bad news, the good being that Jack Bickerdike was back in the fold after fracturing his thumb in one of the warm up games in mid August. The bad, that Mikey Hayward failed a fitness test an hour before kick off on the hamstring injury he picked up against Bridlington a fortnight earlier. This meant that back rower Brad Marsden had to switch to the wing and 19 year old Josh Clough, was rewarded with his first start in the 1st XV after coming off the bench 7 days earlier at Driffield.
A downpour of rain made the first half quite scrappy with spilled possession being an issue for both teams. West Leeds took an early lead through a Breakwell penalty goal as Cleck infringed about 30 metres from their own sticks. Cleckheaton’s Mike Swetman levelled the score in similar fashion before West Leeds regained the lead with their 2nd successful kick at goal. Cleckheaton’s try came just after half an hour when Jack Seddon broke from the half way line and trundled up the touchline. Jack Bickerdike was in support and weaved his way forward, throwing Leeds’ last defender off balance before returning the ball to Seddon, who squeezed in at the corner. Cleckheaton’s 8-6 lead lasted only a couple of minutes before further infringements in their own half gifted Leeds another 3 points via a penalty. The sides changed ends with West Leeds leading by the narrowest of margins at 9-8.
Maintaining discipline and not fighting lost causes or handling balls in the ruck were a key feature of Coach, Thiu Barnard’s, half time talk. Whilst some players took this on board, others still had the attitude that it didn’t apply to them and more infringements followed. The most severe of these came 10 minutes after the restart when Josh Plunkett was shown a red card as Cleckheaton were in a strong attacking position, with the referee signalling punching as the cause. Down to 14 men, Cleckheaton responded strongly and had their most sustained period of pressure in the entire match. Matt Piper went close as did a number of forwards. It seemed inevitable that Cleckheaton would score and re-take the lead but West Leeds defence would not be breached. The away team eventually fought their way up field and kicked another penalty goal to give them a six point lead. As West Leeds continued to press, Jack Seddon was pulled up for a high tackle and shown a yellow card. Cleckheaton were now down to 13 men and Leeds had a 5m scrum. This turned into a number of 5m scrums and a lineout as Cleckheaton defended manfully with two men down. Niall Jackson picked up the Man of the Match for topping the tackle count and working tirelessly through this period. However, the gaps were there on the field and eventually West Leeds went through one for a try under the sticks. Breakwell converted to take the score to 19-8. Cleck were restored to 14 men for the final 5 minutes and made headway in the vain hope of collecting a losing bonus point but it wasn’t to be and the referee called proceedings to a close.
Cleckheaton need to learn from their mistakes and commit to those small improvements, that is all that is required for them to take this league by storm. This weekend Cleckheaton welcome Alnwick back to Moorend for the first time in several years. A challenging game is expected against the men from Northumberland, who currently lie one place above Cleckheaton in the league table.