Cleckheaton 11 – 17 Driffield
By Neil Gillan
Cleckheaton Do Not Their Opportunities
Cleckheaton welcomed Driffield to a windswept Moorend looking to record back to back wins. Cleckheaton made 2 changes to last week's winning team, full back James Wilson and centre Ollie Depledge both missed out with knee injuries and Brad Marsden filled in on the right wing with Mike Swetman at full back. Tom Austin was on the bench with Ben Dearing and Henry Iwanejko.
There was very little to choose between the teams in the opening exchanges but Driffield got the scoreboard ticking over on 20 minutes after a high tackle gave James Watts a penalty goal from 20 metres out. Cleckheaton went very close a couple of times, when Mike Hayward was put into space down the left and fed Danny Booth but the pass was deemed forward. Ryan Piercy was also held up over the line as Cleckheaton applied considerable pressure without success. It took until the final seconds of the half before Cleckheaton opened their account with a 35 metre goal by Dale Breakwell, leaving the sides tied 3 -3 at the interval.
Very early in the second period Watts added his 2nd penalty goal to push Driffield ahead again. Tom Austin took the field with Josh Plunkett making way and he was unfortunately joined on the bench moments later when Matt Piper, was sent to the sin bin. The referee finding fault when Cleckheaton’s captain came right through the centre of a ruck to turn over the ball. Driffield took immediate advantage with the scrum option and when the ball went left the Driffield centre Gary Stephenson crashed over near the corner flag, the conversion fell short and the score was 11-3 to the visitors. Cleckheaton were getting across the gain line but on several occasions the ball was inexplicably put to ground as handling errors thwarted their progress. On the hour Breakwell reduced the lead to one score with a penalty goal as the Driffield number 8 Brankley was sent to the sin bin.
More pressure by Cleckheaton and quick hands by Breakwell and Swetman put Hayward into a gap and the centre stepped around the defence for his 11th try of the season, the kick was missed and score was back level at 11-11, with Cleckheaton now in the ascendency.
The increased morale was short lived as several players watched motionless as the restart was allowed to bounce. It was pounced on by a Driffield player who got deep into Cleckheaton 22 before being brought down illegally and Watts added another goal to put his side back in front. This lead was extended to 17-11 with 6 minutes remaining when Watts added another penalty for the visitors.
Cleckheaton had 2 more try scoring chances being held up on the line on the left before being awarded a penalty, which they kicked to touch for a line out 5m out. Driffield didn’t contest the lineout but instead shaped to repel the push. A Driffield forward fell onto the floor on the gain line and a couple of players in Cleckheaton’s rolling maul fell trying to straddle the obstruction. The ball became trapped and the referee awarded Driffield the scrum. This was the last play of the game and Cleckheaton had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Damian Pearson was Cleckheaton's Man of the Match and Ben Dearing was awarded his 1st Team tie. Congratulations to both.
Cleckheaton’s position remains precarious just above the drop zone, which makes their next game, away at Consett, who’s relegation was confirmed last weekend, a must win fixture.