Match Report: Bradford & Bingley 10 – 23 Cleckheaton
Cleckheaton End the Bees 7 Game Winning Run.
By Geoff Akerman
Cleckheaton took the sting out of the Bees, ending their run of 7 games without defeat, in a tremendous performance at a freezing, rain swept, Wagon Lane.
Cleckheaton made the short trip to Bingley showing one change from the team that beat Percy Park last week, Joey Carley hadn't recovered and was replaced by player coach Thiu Barnard. Bees kicked off playing into the wind and rain and Cleckheaton dominated the early exchanges. Dale Breakwell, who was excellent throughout, used the elements to good effect with a huge kick out of defence which made fully 60 metres and when Bees were penalised at the maul the stand-off slotted over a routine penalty from 20 metres to give Cleck an early lead. On 15 minutes Mikey Hayward was shown the yellow card for a deliberate knock on when an attempted interception went to ground. The Bees came into the game more with the numerical advantage but couldn't get the scoreboard moving as Cleckheaton maintained their defensive shape and put in a commendable tackling shift, with Ryan Piercy leading the way.
Bees lock Ante Majic had to leave the field injured after being tackled into touch by Danny Booth who was a constant threat in both attack and defence. The first try of the game came on 30 minutes, good approach work by the Bees was helped by a couple of missed tackles down the Cleck left and an overlap was worked for full back Cameron Bainbridge to cross for an unconverted try to give the Bees a 5 -3 lead. Jack Seddon was having an impact with some powerful runs up the middle and when he was tackled on halfway, a penalty was awarded to Cleckheaton for not releasing, Breakwell lined the kick up from a metre inside his own half and the ball sailed between the posts to put Cleck back in front. Barnard was held up over the line for the visitors but the final action of an absorbing first half came deep into stoppage time when Bees scrum half Lance Taylor dummied his way into space and fed flanker Ali MacDonald who crossed for the try which again was unconverted. Bees led 10-6 at half time.
A couple of minutes into the second half, Bees were caught offside and Breakwell kicked his 3rd goal from 30 metres taking the score to 10-9. As the driving rain intensified, Bees with the biting cold wind at their backs, were trying to get their three-quarter line moving but resolute defence kept them away from the try line. Their kicks down field caused little threat thanks to James Wilson, Jack Bickerdike and Booth who worked tirelessly to nullify this tactic. Cleckheaton made their first substitution on 60 mins with Barnard going off for Ben Etchells to make his 1st XV league debut. In the gathering gloom and with Bees on the attack, Mike Swetman put pressure on his opposite number and when the ball was spilled, he hacked downfield. The veteran centre showed great speed and great football skills, left footing the ball 90 degrees with his final touch, to take it away from himself and his chaser but put it right in the path of the supporting Hayward, who picked up and touched down for his 9th try of the season. Breakwell added the conversion putting Cleck back in the lead with 73 minutes played and Swetman, with calf muscles full with lactic acid, made way for Ben Dearing.
Cleckheaton were controlling the ball well, rumbling downfield and taking time off the clock. Props Paul Turner and Andy Piper were carrying well and hooker Niall Jackson was unstoppable making yard after yard in a Man of the Match performance. Matt Wood is improving week on week, becoming accustomed to the pace of the North 1 East and put in a good display. Cleckheaton put the icing on the Christmas cake when Captain Matt Piper was stopped short of the line and the ball was recycled by Bickerdike, who gavce a reverse pass to flanker Josh Plunkett, to power over for the final try with 2 minutes left, Breakwell added the goal for a personal 13 point haul and Cleck completed the double over their opponents with a final score Bees 10 Cleckheaton 23.