Match Report: Cleckheaton 20 - 14 Morpeth
Six of the Best - By Geoff Akerman
Cleckheaton made it six out of six as they sought to avenge a heavy defeat at the hands of 5th place Morpeth in the reverse fixture earlier in the year. Ben Thrower and Mike Hayward returned to the starting line up after last week’s win at Percy Park, replacing James Crowther and Craig Blackburn.
Cleckheaton kicked off in spring like sunshine and were put under early pressure by a very mobile Morpeth pack, these attacks failed to trouble the scoreboard.
On 12 minutes, James Wilson and Hayward combined down the right hand side and Matt Piper cut through on a diagonal run to cross for a fine try which was converted by Mike Swetman to give Cleckheaton a 7-0 lead. A midfield battle was developing with some excellent defence by both teams. On 23 minutes, Cleckheaton had a scrum feed 15 metres from their own line, which Morpeth disrupted, winning a penalty. Ben Hornby was successful with the goal to make the score 7-3. At the next ruck Morpeth were penalised 30 metres from their line but Swetman pulled the ball left of the posts. 5 minutes later, Swetman produced a superb kick to the corner for a flying Hayward to run on to but the bounce of the ball eluded him. Half time arrived with the scores remaining 7-3.
Morpeth started the 2nd half gaining an immediate foothold in Cleck territory and when the home team were penalised for a high tackle, Hornby kicked the penalty to leave just a point between the teams. The same player should have given Morpeth the lead when Cleckheaton were penalised 25 metres out but he pulled the ball left of the posts to give Cleckheaton a reprieve. This was short lived as on 56 minutes a loose ball from a scrum and a kick ahead lead to a try for Morpeth full back Johnny Ward, the conversion was missed but the visitors led 11-7.
Cleckheaton retained their composure and soon after the restart Morpeth conceded a penalty, making it worse for themselves by back-chatting the referee to gift Cleckheaton a further 10 metres. Andy Piper took a quick tap and drove the ball in, Swetman fed Matt Piper on the charge, who slipped a ball out of the back of his hand in contact, for Wilson to collect and regain the lead for Cleckheaton, Swetman added the extras and the scoreboard read 14-11.
Cleckheaton's penalty count was causing concern as Morpeth piled on the pressure but the defence was strong and another penalty goal by Hornby was all Morpeth had to show as they drew level on 62 mins. After good work by Bickerdike, Wilson and Man of the Match, Brad Marsden, Morpeth gave away another penalty which gave Swetman the chance to give Cleckheaton a 3 point lead going into the final 10 minutes. The kick sailed over making it 17-14. A further Swetman penalty 2 minutes from time sealed a fine win and propelled the club into 6th place in the league as Bridlington lost at home to Bradford & Bingley.
The final game of this season is at Moorend against Penrith, Cleckheaton will be looking to extend their good form and winning run to 7 games, kick off at 3pm