Report: Cleckheaton 31 – 27 Percy Park
Cleckheaton Settle Nail Biter in Injury Time
This fixture served up a real nail biter at Moorend, where the lead changed hands three or four times in the last five minutes. Cleckheaton finally ran out winners with the last play of the game to bring joy to the home side and despair to the visitors.
Mike Swetman put Cleckheaton into an early lead with a penalty goal before a good driving run by Josh Plunkett took the home team close. Mike Hayward collected from the ruck and combined with Swetman to put Liam Darville in for a try. The conversion went wide but Cleckheaton had advanced into an 8-0 lead. Cleck looked in the ascendancy and more points seemed inevitable but Jack Seddon was caught with his hands in the ruck and sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. Percy Park, playing much better than their bottom half of the league table suggests, took full advantage and propelled themselves into a 19-8 lead by the break. Park’s three tries all followed a similar pattern, stretching out Cleckheaton’s right hand side and running practiced lines to carve a gap through a depleted defence. Caulfield, Rees and Greswold crossed the whitewash for the Newcastle men, with Michael Grove adding two conversions.
Cleckheaton were up against it at the change of ends and coach, Thiu Barnard, demanded a reduction in the error count for the second period and a renewed sense of urgency from his squad. Cleckheaton resumed the game on the front foot and within minutes Seddon began to make up for his period in the bin with a great break and one handed off load, which was collected by Luke Pearson. The hard working lock forward flicked a pass to James Wilson who stepped inside the last Park man for Cleckheaton’s second try. Ronan Evans came of the bench replacing Swetman and minutes later added a penalty goal from 35m out, to put the home side back within three points at 19-16 down. This reduction in deficit however, only lasted three minutes as the black and white jerseys of Percy Park poured forward and attacked with pace from the half way line, culminating in a well finished try from Grove.
With 20 minutes left all was still to play for but to win the game Cleck would have to score more than once, whilst any further score from Percy Park would surely see the league points heading up the A1. In the meantime, Ryan Piercy had battled hard but had to give way to injury and Neil Cherryholme joined the action. Niall Jackson also entered the fray after Ben Thrower had put in a very respectable shift. Cleckheaton played with passion to grind out the yards. Scrum half and Man of the Match, Jack Bickerdike, seized every opportunity to snipe forward and made good progress. Brad Marsden and Andy Piper carried well and skipper Matt Piper battered Park’s central defence with his robust frame. It was that man Seddon however, who made the decisive break and with another one handed off load put the dancing feet of Hayward to work, shimmying in at the corner. Evans added a brilliant touchline conversion to put Cleck within a point. With 7 minutes to go a cool-headed penalty strike from Evans gave Cleckehaton back the lead at 26-24 but the tension was now unbearable. Percy Park pressed and in the final two minutes of regular time won a penalty right in front of the sticks to go back ahead and on the face of it, seal the win. A great restart from Cleckheaton though saw them turn over possession and celebrate when the referee gave them a penalty. The kick was difficult at 40m out and just flew wide of the target but crucially cleared the dead ball line. Park were willing the ref to blow the final whistle but he decided there was time for the drop out but this would be the last play. Park kicked deep and Wilson and Pat Foulstone fielded the ball before Darville fed Seddon just over the half way line. To complete a superb second half, the No.8 somehow found his way through the defence again and sprinted to the line, arm aloft in Shearer-esque fashion has he crossed the whitewash. The try brought the house down for the Moorend faithful whilst at the same time, the Percy Park players and their support were brought to their knees. A hard game to lose in the last second but a massive testament to Cleckheaton's effort and determination to play right to the final whistle.
This weekend Cleck travel up to Northumbria to face league leaders Morpeth, in what is an appetite wetting game. It is a 2pm kick-off and for anyone wanting to travel on the team coach, it is a 9am departure from the top car park.