Match Report: Cleckheaton 70 – 59 Penrith
Cleck in Seventh Heaven After Twenty Try Jamboree
by Geoff Akerman
An extraordinary game enthralled a sun drench crowd at Moorend as Cleckheaton finished the season with a match featuring a total of 20 tries and 129 points. More remarkable still was the fact that the visitors from Penrith enjoyed a 59-35 lead with only 20 mins to go, before Cleckheaton staged an unbelievable come-back, clocking up their 7th victory in a row.
Penrith came to Moorend with an outside chance of a play-off place if they could win this match and Driffield were to lose at Bradford & Bingley. They started the game in explosive fashion against a Cleck side that was unchanged from the previous week's win over Morpeth. The opening try gave a taster of what was to come, when quick hands and pace out wide led to the visitors scoring an excellent try via full back Jay Rossi. Cleckheaton countered on six minutes with a pinpoint kick to the corner from Ronan Evans, which was gathered by Mikey Hayward who crashed over to level the scores. Mike Swetman missed the conversion but kicked a penalty from close to the half way line two minutes later. Hayward then showed both speed and strength to round one defender and smash through another to cross for his 2nd try of the day and 13th of the season, taking Cleckheaton into a 13-5 lead.
On 17 minutes great support play led to Penrith’s second try. No. 8 Mike Raine crossing the whitewash and Matt Allinson converting to narrow the scores to a single point. Brad Marsden got over next for Cleckheaton after Matt Piper was stopped just short, the conversion drifted wide. Penrith then went into rugby sevens mode and scored two tries in four minutes through wingers Olly May and Jon Fell, earning themselves a bonus point and taking a lead that they would retain until the final five minutes. Jamie McNaughton improved Penrith’s advantage and Allinson added 2 more conversions propelling the visitors into a 18-31 lead.
Replacement Tim Mobbs took the field for Cleckheaton in place of the injured Ben Thrower and made an immediate impact, scoring his first league try for the club to reduce the arrears to 8 points and also bag a bonus point for Cleckheaton. Cleckheaton went back on the attack from the kick-off and were making great progress until a pass out wide was intercepted and scrum half George Graham had the pace to run 70 metres and go under the posts for Penrith, Allinson converted to make the half time score 23-38.
The second half started just as the first had ended, with an interception by the visitors with the speedy wing man, Fell, going in for his 2nd try of the game, with Allinson adding the extras. Paul Turner gave Cleckheaton hope, burrowing over for his 2nd try of the season and then on 55 minutes Jack Seddon also scored for Cleck after running an excellent line down the blind side. Smoke, figuratively speaking, was starting to come out of the scoreboard as Penrith looked to have sealed a victory when May and Graham both added to their tally and Penrith held a seemingly insurmountable lead of 59-35 with just under 20 minutes of time remaining.
Cleckheaton showed determination beyond the cause and Mike Swetman started the come-back forcing his way over the line from short range. The same player went in again with 12 minutes to go, converting both of them to leave a gap of just ten points between the sides. Quick hands from one side of the pitch to the other created space for Cleck right wing, Grant Fitzsimmons, to cross the line with the conversion making the score 59-56 to Penrith but Cleck knew they had just enough time. As well as records for the most points scored in a game and the highest losing score in a game, Mike Swetman also challenged for the quickest hat-trick in a game going in for the third time in under 10 minutes to give Cleckheaton the lead. The restart was nervous but caught cleanly in the end and skipper Matt Piper added a final try for his side with under a minute left on the clock, sealing an outstanding victory.
This was a fantastic way to close out the season with Cleckheaton extending their unbeaten run to 7 games. Head Coach, Thiu Barnard, assisted by Mike Swetman are to continue their tenure next season and are already planning the campaign. If Cleckheaton can play like they have during the last two months, then the outlook for next year is filled with promise. The scoreboard will need a service and the pitch will be seeded and sanded, whilst we all look forward to pre-season training and some pre-season games in August. Please watch the web site for updates on these fixtures.
Thank you to all our supporters for your patronage this season and we will see you all soon. The annual club dinner is on Friday 4th May, 7pm at the club. 3 course meal and speeches including our main speaker Jamie Peacock MBE. Tickets are £30 and there is some space left. Please contact Fred Smith, Colin Thompson or Neil Gillan if you would like to attend. All welcome.