Match Report: Cleckheaton 45 – 14 West Hartlepool
By Neil Gillan
Cleckheaton in Pink 7th Heaven
Cleckheaton made it three wins in a row on a wintry afternoon at Moorend. This match against West Hartlepool was originally due to be played on 3rd March but was postponed as the Beast from the East trampled its way unforgivingly, through the Spen Valley. So a fortnight after the Breast Cancer Charity Lunch, head shavings and raffles, which raised over £3,000 for this worthy cause, the team eventually got to wear their specially made pink kit. Both sides had a few enforced changes due to the rearrangement, with Cleck prop Paul Turner, having to join Luke Pearson in the second row and Ben Thrower, James Crowther and Andy Piper making up the starting front three. Carley, Plunkett and Seddon formed the unchanged back row and would prove formidable again, whilst Mike Swetman had to switch to standoff with Ronan Evans being at the Millennium Stadium. Lee Queeley moved to inside centre, allowing Craig Blackburn to pick up yet another 1st team cap.
The Cleckheaton side were dressed more brightly than usual and took this extra sparkle into the game, scoring five first half tries to put the outcome beyond doubt after 40 minutes. Cleckheaton’s opener was scored by Lee Queeley, when the powerful outside centre sprinted in under the sticks, following a break and off-load from Jack Seddon. Mike Swetman converted. Swetman then put skipper, Matt Piper, in for the first of what would become a first half hat-trick. Cleckheaton extended their lead to 19-0 with Piper’s second try as he brushed away an attempted tackle and dived over the whitewash. Swetman added the coversion then Ben Thrower commenced a run of consecutive try scoring games, as the prop got over in the corner just like he did at Huddersfield YMCA the week before. West Hartlepool had not given up the game despite trailing by 24 points and following a line out, in which every Cleck player stood off the ball catcher, Wests Jake Linighan resisted the temptation to form a maul and instead darted through a confused defence for a simple try. Cleckheaton had the last word in the half though when Matt Piper rounded off a superb hat-trick, with Swetman once again the provider as the robust inside centre proved too much to handle for Wests’ defence.
The teams changed ends 31-7 to the good and Coach Thiu Barnard, made a couple of changes bringing Niall Jackson on for Andy Piper and Cain Crotty on for Grant Fitzsimmons. West Hartlepool enjoyed their best spell of the game shortly after half time with their Man of the Match, Rob Thorn, going over for a try and Wests nearly made it two in a row save for a forward pass. Cleckheaton then got the bit back between their teeth and a great support line by James Wilson allowed the fullback through a gap for Cleck’s 6th try. Just before the hour mark a speculative kick from West Hartlepool didn’t clear their lines but instead found Mike Swetman and the veteran stand-off delighted the crowd with a 30m run in to the line, which could be loosely described as a sprint and for those old enough, brought back nostalgic reminders of scenes from the Six Million Dollar Man. Swetman still had the energy however, to convert both of those second half tries. With 20 minutes left to play, the Beast From the East’s little cousin descended on Cleckheaton creating blizzard like conditions for a barmy fifteen minute period. Seeing the pitch was difficult never mind playing much constructive rugby and a knock-on-athon ensued, with Cleck Man of the Match, Matt Piper, like he had all afternoon, leading from the front. The referee blew the final whistle with Cleckheaton scoring 7 tries and running out convincing winners at 45-14.
A commanding performance from Cleckheaton as they consolidate their position in North One East. The way they are playing there is no reason why they cannot finish the season off in style and go undefeated for the last four games. Next up we have Malton and Norton at home on 24th March before a week’s break on Easter Saturday.