Cleckheaton 24 – 17 Huddersfield YMCA
Fitting Performance for an Emotional Day
The Cleckheaton playing squad and coaching team briefly joined 140 guests at a pre-lunch to hear a eulogy to club President Alan Bentley, before taking part in a minute’s applause to celebrate the tremendous work he did for the club. A couple of hours later, the players and gathering throng of spectators also stood for a minute’s silence prior to the kick off of this National League 3 game against Huddersfield YMCA. The visitors to Moorend had proven to be a bogey side for Cleckheaton, inflicting the club’s only 2 defeats of the 2014/15 Championship winning campaign and already claiming a victory in their home game against Cleck back in October.
The melancholy of the day was lifted 10 minutes into the match with a classy touch from Cameron Burnhill, who flicked a loose pass off the floor with his foot into his out stretched arms, before putting Martin Woodhead one on one with his opposite number. The YM defender fancied his chances, so did Cleckheaton’s powerful winger, the result: Cleckheaton’s first try. Ross Hayden added a touchline conversion to give the home side a 7-0 lead. YM were up for the contest and tried to wear down Cleckheaton’s defence but there was no getting through with Richard Piper, Rob Afoa Peterson, Paul Turner and Carl Mason all putting in a shift to keep the opposition out. YM settled for a penalty goal to open their account before Cleckheaton responded with vigour and some belligerent work from the forwards. Jack Seddon, Ben Thrower and Ollie Akroyd made in roads before Alex Dawson powered his way over the line. The conversion was missed and at the break Cleckheaton led 12-3.
Huddersfield YM went up to dressing rooms at half time and returned with a change of strip, with the predominantly yellow colours now creating sharper contrast with Cleckheaton’s cherry and white. Meanwhile Cleckheaton made some changes throwing James Crowther, Tom Hanson and Danny Vento into the mix. The change of shirt at half time gave Huddersfield YM new impetus and a try 10 minutes in, gave them new hope as the score was reduced to 12-10. The reduction in deficit was short lived however, as Cleckheaton's fabled catch and drive sprang into action following a long touch finding kick from Michael Piper. The momentum of the pack was irresistible and Richard Piper got the touchdown, which Hayden converted. Huddersfield tried to mount several counter-attacks, many starting from deep in their own territory but were thwarted on each occasion, with Matt Piper also adding some nice tactical kicks to pin the opposition back, rounding off a fine performance which secured him Man of the Match along with Ollie Akroyd. Cleckheaton extended their lead and claimed a try scoring bonus point following a kick down field from YM. Jack Bickerdike took the catch and fed James Wilson who combined well with Hayden to set up field position on the left just inside YM’s 22. A long pass from Bickerdike and a pin-point cross-field kick from Mike Piper was pounced upon at the edge of the in-goal area by Burnhill. Hayden again finding the middle of the uprights with the conversion attempt. With a minute left on the clock, Huddersfield YM got themselves a consolation try under the sticks and with the simple conversion, which brought the final score to 24-17, they earned themselves a potentially valuable bonus point.
This was a tough game and a very fitting performance from the team on an emotional day. Skipper Richard Piper dedicated the win to Alan Bentley and this and the bonus point victory, which finally broke the Huddersfield YMCA hoodoo, would have made the former President very pleased indeed. Huddersfield could claim some joy from the result though, as the defeat by 7 points meant the score across both games this season were level and they retain the coveted John Bower trophy.
Next week Cleckheaton make the short trip along the M62 to Morley where another uncompromising local derby surely awaits.