Cleckheaton 29 - 24 Morley
By Neil Gillan
Commendable Performance Earns Much Needed Win
Cleckheaton entertained neighbours Morley on Saturday and put in a sterling effort that sent the visitors to their first defeat since Cleckheaton last played them in early December.
The Spen Valley men made one change to last week's team with James Wilson returning at full back after injury and Mike Swetman dropping to the bench. Cleckheaton got off to a solid start and when Morley were penalised at a scrum inside their 22, Dale Breakwell slotted over a simple penalty goal to open the scoring. Cleckheaton had their kicking boots on, with telling tactical kicks from both half backs pushing Morley into their own quarter. Breakwell added a second penalty on 15 minutes for offside to make the score 6-0. Breakwell set up the next score with a superb kick towards the left corner which held up and caught the Morley defence napping, whilst Danny Booth was the quickest to react and go in for his 13th try of the season, the conversion was good and Cleckheaton led 13-0 after 25 minutes.
Cleckheaton had dominated the scrums with front three of Paul Turner, Ben Thrower and Andy Piper proving formidable on the day. Morley conceded 3 quick penalties at such a set piece and on the last occasion the ball was tapped and quickly moved left where a scoring pass to Mikey Hayward was intercepted by Morley winger Karl Bradshaw, who raced 80 metres to the other end of the field for an opportunist try. The conversion was missed but Morley had got on the board at 13-5 on 33 minutes. The final action of the half saw more domination by the Cleck pack and after a switch to the blind side by Jack Bickerdike, Booth crossed near the corner flag for his 14th try of the season, Breakwell missed the conversion and the referee blew for half time with the score 18-5 in Cleckheaton’s favour.
Cleckheaton added Tom Austin and Niall Jackson to the fray and both would go on to have fine games but it was Morley who recommenced with the bit between their teeth. After several phases close to the Cleckheaton’s whitewash a try was awarded and then goaled by Mark Chester, putting Morley back within 6 points. It was important that Cleckheaton kept up their momentum after a dominant first half and midway through the second half, they did just that with a spectacular 3rd try. Morley were penalised deep inside the Cleck 22 and Breakwell cleared to halfway. The line out fell into Morley hands but Brad Marsden ripped it back off them, peeled around the front of the line out and went on a 45 metre uncatchable romp for a fine try. Breakwell was unsuccessful with the conversion but he was on target with a penalty from 20 metres some 5 minutes later to extend the lead to 26-12. A lapse in Cleck’s defensive line on 69 minutes saw Morley cross for their 3rd try, again improved by Chester to make the score 26-19 with just over 10 to go. Breakwell kicked his 4th penalty goal of the game a minute later to calm Cleck’s nerves and make it a two score game again and this proved very valuable as when Morley went in for their bonus point try, with a couple of minutes to go, it was only a consolation. The referee called time and Cleckheaton had won 29-24, much to the delight of the sizeable crowd.
Some excellent work from the pack and a very well disciplined performance won Cleckheaton the spoils with Cleck conceding 5 penalties to Morley’s 14. Brad Marsden and Dale Breakwell shared the Man of the Match award. Cleckheaton have one foot firmly in the safety zone and if they can repeat this performance next week, when they make the journey up to North Shields to face Percy Park in the final away game of the season, then they’ll have plenty to be happy about on the way home.