Huddersfield YMCA 31 - 24 Cleckheaton
Cleckheaton lose it in the first half
Cleckheaton took the field for this game against last season's bogey side, Huddersfield YMCA, missing 3 influential players. Jack Bickerdike and Rob Afoa Peterson still side lined with knee and shoulder injuries and Danny Vento also unavailable for the fixture. Despite a mid-week resolution to defend with much more vigour than the Sandal game and to give away fewer penalties, the first half of this match saw Cleck concede 4 tries and have two men sin-binned.
Cleckheaton did start brightly and a break and 30m dash up the middle from Ollie Akroyd, gave field position for Michael Piper to coolly slot a drop goal to open the scoring. Cleckheaton did not handle the restart well, conceding a line out and from that possession YM recycled adeptly until Stead went in for a converted try to put the home side into a lead they would not lose.
On the quarter hour Matt Piper was sin-binned for blocking a chase runner following a YM kick. With reduced numbers the home side took immediate advantage and the wide field at Launt Hill created plenty of space for scrum half Wilson to dart through without challenge and sprint in for a long distance try. Cleckheaton hit back with good work from their forwards, who had the upper hand on their opponents for most of the match, with Richard Piper putting in an immense amount of work. Play was bashed towards YM's line and a long flat pass from Michael Piper put Ross Hayden in at the corner. The fullback, who had a great game also converted from the touchline to put Cleck back within 4 points at 14-10.
The reduced lead did not last long though as YM standoff Hawkyard, drifted sideways across Cleck's back line and then shot through a large hole for another try under the sticks, YM then claimed a bonus point with their fourth, and what would turn out to be their last, try of the day on the 35 minute mark. With Cleckheaton on the attack, a spilled ball created an opportunistic counter strike down the visitors left flank. Michael Piper chased down the YM runner and with just metres to go reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt at the collar, pulling him down and with the support of Lee Queeley, stopping his momentum inches short. Any joy from the Cleckheaton faithful was very short lived as the referee deemed it necessary, in light of the collar grab, to both award a penalty try and to issue a yellow card. The conversion was added and at the break Cleckheaton trailed 28-10 and would be reduced to 14 men for the opening 5 mins of the second half.
Youngster Sam Wood was introduced to the fray at half time, making his first team debut and came on in place of Matt Piper, who had picked up a knock. James Crowther also still under 20, took the field in place of Ben Thrower. Wood went on to have an excellent and very encouraging first game for the club at this level and showed some undoubted class when he tuned two defenders inside out to create a try for Craig Blackburn. Ross Hayden added the touchline conversion. YM added a penalty goal but Cleckheaton were clearly gaining the upper hand, however some school boy errors we're still interrupting any potential comeback. A line-out steal from Ollie Akroyd set the ball rolling for Cleckheaton's next try. Several drives from the forwards took play close to YM's whitewash, before it was spun across the back line, where Akroyd popped up again to feed Wood for a try on debut. Hayden maintained his 100% kicking record with another difficult conversion.
With the scores now within 7 points, finger nails were starting to be chewed by the home support. Cleckheaton edged closer and closer to an equalising try and with 6 mins left had a scrum 10m from YM's line. Completion of the comeback seemed a real possibility, but alas Cleckheaton were adjudged to have pushed early on their scrum and the free kick to Huddersfield allowed them to relieve the pressure and hang on to the win, whilst Cleckheaton took home only a bonus point.
Another below par defensive effort in the first 40 mins ultimately cost Cleckheaton and the team will be disappointed they allowed it to happen. Next week they entertain Morley at Moorend when Cleckheaton must look to kick on with another home win against our old friends and rivals. A victory would see Cleckheaton leap frog the Maroons In the league table and this fact alone should provide the incentive for a hard fought game of rugby.