Match Report: Cleckheaton 31 – 34 West Leeds
Cleckheaton’s Home Winning Run Ends at the Hands of West Leeds
By Geoff Akerman
Cleckheaton lost a dramatic game to visitors West Leeds, coming from behind to turn a half time deficit into an eleven point lead, before conceding two late tries to see their home winning run brought to an end.
Cleckheaton made several changes to last week’s team, Alex Browne returned at right wing and Jack Seddon was back in the team at flanker. In positional changes, Captain Matt Piper started at 6, reflecting Cleckheaton’s back row injury crisis and James Wilson and Martin Woodhead filled the centre positions with Mikey Hayward at full back.
The first points of the game went to the visitors on 5 minutes with a penalty goal by Hoey. This seemingly irrelevant score would later prove to be the difference between the two sides, as both would go on to score five tries with three conversions.
Cleckheaton got the first of their tries after West Leeds failed to secure a loose ball close to the try line and player-coach Thiu Barnard pounced to collect his first try of the season, the conversion was wide but Cleck led 5-3. West Leeds turned the game around with two tries in two minutes, both to winger Marshall following quick hands down the left flank. Hoey converted both and took the score to 17-5 to the visitors. On 36 minutes after considerable pressure by the home pack , the referee ordered a 5 metre scrum after Cleck were held up over the line. A slick move at the base of the scrum put Wilson into a gap and he crossed to score a try converted by Ben Dearing. As half time arrived Cleckheaton were back in touch at 17-12.
Cleckheaton's bench was active as Barnard left the field injured, to be replaced by James Crowther and Grant Fitzsimmons entered the fray, going on to win Cleckheaton’s Man of the Match, at the expense of Woodhead. Niall Jackson also replaced Andy Piper in the front row. On 43 minutes, Cleck’s third try came after multiple phases and good hands from Dearing, Piper and Fitzsimmons put Hayward in the corner to level the scores at 17-17. Ten minutes later and the lead was extended when Alex Browne came off the wing and took a pass from Jack Bickerdike to score his first try for the club, Dearing added the extras to make the score 24-17. West Leeds captain Neave scored the next try following good work down the right on 57 minutes to make it anybody's game at 24-22. Cleckheaton extended the lead again on 62 minutes with a good forward drive and hooker Tim Mobbs got the ball to ground. The conversion was added by Dearing and Cleckheaton looked to be in control two scores in front at 31-22.
West Leeds were far from done however and turned the scoreboard on its head with two tries in five minutes. The first was scored by replacement Gregory who drove over for a close range effort and the five minutes later Carpenter crossed for the game winner, which was converted by Hoey to give West Leeds a three point lead.
Both teams scored five tries on the day and Cleckheaton picked up both a losing and a try-scoring bonus point. This will be scant consolation though, as it was a game which Cleckheaton had and then let slip from their hands. West Leeds’ enthusiasm late in the game was met by poor tackling from Cleckheaton, with shirt grabbing and extended arms between the midriff and chest, replacing the engagement of shoulders and the wrapping up of legs. Cleckheaton’s defence will have to improve dramatically if they are to get any joy out of their trip to high flyers, York, this Saturday. This is the last 3pm kick off until March, as the clocks go back later in the weekend and the evenings draw in.