Cleckheaton made their 2nd of three trips in four weeks to Northumbria to face table toppers Morpeth. The Spen Valley men seemed unaffected by the two and a half hour journey as they started the game in top gear, getting on the front foot from the kick off and pressurising their opposition. Ball retention was good and the decision making was right on the game plan. Cleckheaton made their way up field and had a good 10 minute spell in Morpeth’s 22 before winning a penalty under the sticks, which Mike Swetman converted into 3 points as Cleckheaton took an early lead.
From this bright beginning it largely went down hill for Cleckheaton. Morpeth levelled the scores on the 20 minute mark with a penalty of their own. A few minutes later they doubled their tally with a second successful shot at goal from stand-off, Ben Hornby. The game was still in the balance but Cleck were starting to collect injuries with lock, Thiu Barnard, having to leave the field with a groin strain, pushing Paul Turner backwards into the second row. A few minutes before half time Cleck conceded another penalty close to their line, which was quickly tapped by Morpeth for their opening try. As Hornby lined up another successful conversion, Ryan Piercy had to be helped from the field with a bad ankle injury that may keep him side-lined for a few weeks. This left Cleckheaton trailing 13-3 at the whistle and facing the second half without either of their 2nd rows.
The next 40 minutes were amongst the most forgettable of the season from a Cleckheaton point of view as Morpeth racked up 4 more tries, 3 of which were converted, without response from Cleckheaton. The West Yorkshire men started to back bite at each other and chelp at the referee as the penalty count grew evermore in Morpeth’s favour. The home side meanwhile, went through their plays and opened up a way to Cleck’s line every 10 minutes or so. Sam Hornby claimed a hat-trick for the Northumbrian team and Shippen added the last try on the 70th minute. At the final whistle Cleckheaton’s players left the field dejected at the team’s performance. The effort on the whole was less than they are capable of and their mental toughness waned in the second half. There was a couple of exceptions with Mikey Hayward picking up Cleckheaton’s man of the match being ever willing to take the opposition on and constantly asking questions of their defence. The other bright note was the debut of Grant Fitzsimmons who joined the club recently and who played with great determination and enthusiasm throughout. He was a late call up to the side after the withdrawal of James Wilson on medical grounds. James still remains in hospital with his illness and Cleckheaton RUFC wish him a speedy recovery.