Cleckheaton 8 – 12 Huddersfield YMCA
Cleckheaton Lose For the Second Time This Season
Cleckheaton suffered only their second loss of the season last Saturday, ironically to the team who had inflicted their first defeat last October. The unavailability of talismanic captain, Richard Piper, did not help their cause but to cite this as a determining factor would be to make excuses. Cleckheaton had the possession and territory to win the game but errors in execution at crucial times and losing two players to the sin bin, is ultimately what left them with a narrow defeat and just a solitary bonus point against a very determined and competent Huddersfield YM XV.
Cleckheaton opened the game playing into the wind but despite this, they enjoyed the majority of early territorial advantage. Huddersfield YMCA’s defence was solid though and the Moorenders couldn’t break through in open play. A penalty kick to the corner and the attendant catch and drive looked certain to put Cleckheaton’s first points on the board. With the maul rolling closer and closer to the line a try seemed imminent but a dash of over excitement saw the pack break up and the ball carrier lose the ball as he tried to ground it.
Huddersfield YMCA had made few forays into Cleckheaton’s half and none into the homeside’s 22, but that changed on the 30 minute mark when a half tackle allowed YM’s flanker to get an arm free and feed a short pass to captain Ed Barber, running at pace and without further challenge he sprinted in from 30m out. The conversion from Gavin Stead made the score 7-0 and that was to remain the case when the whistle blew to end the first half. Unfortunately for Cleckheaton, immediately prior to the break the referee determined that an attempted interception by Martin Woodhead was in fact a deliberate knock down and what’s more, much to everyone’s disbelief, an infringement that deserved a yellow card.
Cleckheaton had not played their smartest football in latter half of the first period. Too many kicks into the wind had brought little gain but now with the wind at their backs they needed to play in right areas of the field, particularly with Woodhead still sidelined for a further 9 minutes. The Moorenders started strongly and were rewarded with a penalty which Ross Hayden duly slotted. Restored to a full compliment, Cleckheaton continued to pile pressure on YM and a nicely timed pass from Matt Piper put Hayden in open space. The fullback chipped over the defence resulting in a desperate clearance kick near their line by the visitors and the award of a 5m scrum to the home side. No score came directly from that set piece but before YM could clear their lines Cleckheaton won a line out from which Rob Afoa-Peterson was able to barge his way over. The conversion was missed but the Moorenders had taken an 8-7 lead.
Now seemingly in the ascendancy, Cleckheaton were reduced to 14 men for a second time on the 60 minute mark when Ryan Piercy was shown a yellow card for an alleged high tackle. YM took advantage when an excellent mid-field break by Lloyd Bentley found Sam Hodge in support and the winger went in for Huddersfield’s second try. Cleckheaton were down but not out and came back at YM strongly, winning three 5m line-outs in the last 6 or 7 minutes of the game. Whether it was the wind, individual nerves or the collective pressure of what Cleckheaton could have been on the verge of, all three line-outs resulted in turnover of possession and eventually time ran out for the Moorenders.
Around this time last year Cleckheaton put Beverley’s title celebrations on hold with a superb home win over the then run-away league leaders. Beverly regrouped and went on to win the league and gain promotion to National 3 a few weeks later. Cleckheaton must now put this loss behind them and focus on the remaining games in this year’s league campaign starting with a potentially challenging trip to Pocklington next week. The measure of a truly champion side is not how they act when the going is smooth but how they react when they start to encounter a few bumps.