Cleckheaton fell to defeat in a full-blooded encounter at Laund Hill. New signing Damian Pearson made his debut after joining the club recently and Mike Swetman returned at outside centre after missing last week's game.
Dale Breakwell had 2 attempts at penalty goals in the opening 5 minutes when YMCA were caught offside but the normally reliable outside half was wide of the mark. Gavin Stead put YMCA on the board with a penalty after 10 minutes and then doubled their lead to 6-0, five minutes later after the referee deemed a Cleckheaton player had failed to clear the ruck. It was then third time lucky for Breakwell, who added a penalty from 30m, to cut the lead to 6-3. The game wasn't able to flow as the whistle happy referee kept blowing for some very dubious decisions, much to the annoyance on both sets of supporters. On the half hour mark James Wilson was sent to the sin bin for an alleged high tackle but YMCA were unable to take advantage of the situation. As the interval approached, Cleckheaton got the first try of the game, a sweeping move to the left saw right wing Mikey Hayward come into the centre and give a scoring pass to Danny Booth, who crossed for his
8th try for the season. Breakwell sent the conversion over the posts from the touchline to give Cleck a 10-6 lead at half time.
At the start of the second half, Andy Piper and Pearson were replaced by Henry Iwanejko and Ben Etchells. YMCA were dominating possession and on 46 minutes, Sam Hodge, standing off the back of a 5 metre scrum crashed over for an unconverted try, putting YM into a narrow lead. Josh Plunkett was yellow carded on 50 minutes, deemed off side at the ruck but as this was in Cleck’s half, the yellow card seemed severe. YMCA increased the tempo in his absence and attempted several powerful thrusts down the middle of the field but Cleck’s line held firm. When YM’s forward’s had given it their all put failed to break through, the ball was spread to YM’s Man of the Match, Gavin Stead, who capitalised on a tackling mix up between Wilson and Swetman to score under the posts, Stead converted his own try and the lead was extended to 18-10. Breakwell reduced the arrears on 62 minutes with his 2nd penalty of the game before Stead replied to restore the 8 point advantage. With just over 10 minutes to go the scoreboard read 21-13 in YM’s favour.
Cleckheaton had given away possession too many times in the game, largely from kicks rather than from errors. Huddersfield YMCA, like Bridlington and Scarborough in previous weeks, were quite happy to keep possession and work their way up field with plenty of patience. Cleckheaton, on the other hand, opted to kick when this was going to achieve little real outcome. This included at least two kicks in the final quarter of the game that bounced in to touch only for the ensuing line-outs not to be contested and the ball quickly propelled from whence it came.
Cleckheaton had some chances as the game neared its end, Breakwell found Booth with space to run with one of the afternoon's better kicks, but it was thwarted by the whistle and a very contentious offside call. Cleckheaton were destroying the YMCA scrum at this stage with Cleckheaton’s Man of the Match, Paul Turner, showing his power, but the referee again found non-obvious offences, mystifying most onlookers. With two minutes to play, YMCA put the game out of reach with a 3rd try in the right corner by Hill which was unconverted for a final score of 26-13.
Overall this was an improved performance from Cleck after last week's lack lustre display, full of commitment, but the concession of 21 penalties and the handing over of possession too often, ultimately cost them points. Huddersfield YMCA are in the top 3 but there is little difference between the capabilities of these two teams. On a brighter note, Cleckheaton retained the John Bower Trophy, which is decided on the aggregate of the two games. Cleck won the home rubber 27-13 and thus take the spoils by a single point!
Next week Cleckheaton entertain Morpeth at Moorend kick off at 2.15pm