Cleckheaton 20 – 17 Pocklington
By Neil Gillan
Cleckheaton Start a New Home Winning Run With the Defeat of Pocklington
Cleckheaton returned to winning ways in a terrific game at Moorend last Saturday, battling back from 8-17 down and withstanding three sin-binnings to eventually take the spoils.
Cleckheaton were largely unchanged from the previous week but Mikey Hayward returned in place of the injured Mike Swetman and new signing Danny Booth was included on the bench. The game had a perfect start for the hosts when crisp passing in the backs gave Martin Woodhead the chance to cross for his 5th try in six games, the kick was wide but Cleckheaton were 5 points up in as many minutes.
Pocklington looked very sharp with ball in hand and dominated possession for a significant period, making several strong bursts. Cleckheaton’s defence was robust with enthusiastic tackling across the park. On the half hour mark Pocklington set up a rolling maul which Cleckheaton were unable to stop fairly and after it advanced almost 50m, Josh Malkinson was deemed to have brought it down illegally and was shown a yellow card. The visitors took advantage and spread the ball left for full back Christian Pollock to race in to tie the score at 5-5. Deep into first half stoppage time with Malkinson only just back on the field, Mikey Hayward threw his arm out in an attempted grab, which was adjudged to be high and he also took a trip to the sin bin. Once again the gifted one man advantage was enough for Pocklington to break down Cleckheaton’s defence and Pollock crossed for his 2nd try, giving his team a 10-5 lead at half time.
Early in the second half, Dearing kicked a routine penalty goal after the visitors were caught offside, narrowing the score to 8-10. When Hayward returned from the sin bin, Woodhead left the field to be replaced by new signing Danny Booth who was to have an impact later in the game. Pocklington extended their lead after 2 missed tackles in midfield by Cleck led to a try next to the posts for winger Jackson, the conversion was added and Pocklington were now more than one score in front at 8-17. Cleckheaton’s spirit was not dampened and they hit back when slick handling by Ben Dearing, Matt Piper and Hayward put Alex Browne in space to power in at the corner. With 20 minutes to play Cleck were right back in it.
Ben Thrower did not help Cleckheaton’s cause when they were in a solid attacking position and he chose to give the referee a mouthful, becoming the 3rd player to take 10 minutes out of the game. On this occasion the numerical advantage was countered by some superb defensive commitment by Cleckheaton, Jack Bickerdike, Ryan Piercy, Andy Piper and Man of the Match, Joey Carley, to the fore.
On 75 minutes, after a powerful run by Carley, the ball was spread out to the right and Piper and Hayward once again combined to put Booth in space. The electric pace of the winger was clear to see and he sped over in the corner. A towering touchline conversion by Dearing brought the applause of the crowd and Cleckheaton regained the lead at 20-17.
A nail-biting finale was in prospect as the referee added some 6 minutes extra time. Pocklington refused a 35 metre kick in front of the post after Paul Turner inexplicably decided to kick the ball out of the ruck, an action that was outlawed at the start of the 2017 season. The penalty goal would have levelled the scores and denied Cleckheaton two valuable league points but Pocklington opted for the scrum. Cleckheaton’s defence did not falter and with a great effort for the full 86 minutes, Pocklington were kept at bay until they eventually coughed up the ball. Skipper Matty Piper gleefully kicked the ball out of play for a hard earned victory.