Cleckheaton were without two experienced forwards from the previous week’s squad with Andy Piper and Josh Plunkett both succumbing to shoulder injuries. Joey Carley joined the front row at hooker with Brad Marsden returning at flanker, taking on the No. 7 jersey, whilst skipper Matt Piper played the match in an unfamiliar role at blindside flank.
Cleckheaton started the better having most of the early possession and on 10 minutes took the lead after Morpeth were penalised for holding on to the ball on the half way line. A good line out drill and good drive by Matt Piper took play deep inside Morpeth’s 22 and when the visitors were penalised for not releasing, Jack Seddon took a quick tap and forced his way over the line under the sticks. The ball may have come loose as he dived over because the absence of a conversion would indicate the referee awarded a penalty try, either way Cleckheaton had opened up a 7-0 lead. Morpeth had made a slow start to the game and following the restart it was still all Cleckheaton. As the half hit its mid-point, Man of the Match Mikey Hayward made a terrific break down the left and after quick ruck ball and a long pass from Breakwell found Booth in space, the speedy winger crossed for a fine try which went unconverted.
Morpeth finally got their act together just before the half hour mark, when the power of their scrum shunted Cleckheaton backwards a number of times inside the homeside’s 22. The scrum collapsed twice during the retreat and the referee lost his patience, sending Cleck’s Paul Turner to the sin. Speedy adjustments were required as Morpeth opted to scrum again from the ensuing penalty and 18 year old Henry Iwanejko took up the mantle at prop with Damian Pearson sacrificed for the following 10 minutes. With the Cleck down to 14 men Morpeth scrum half, Steve Irving, picked up at the base of the scrum and crashed over for a try, which Hornby converted. Almost immediately from the restart Morpeth took the lead with some iffy initially defence from Cleck but nevertheless a finely executed finish by Morpeth. A great run by flanker Ollie Dynan and some good support work resulted in Johnny Ward going over for a try at the side of the posts. Hornby converted this double whammy to make the score, which remained the same at half time, 14-12 to the visitors.
There wasn't much between the sides despite the difference in league position but on 57 minutes Morpeth extended the lead with a Hornby penalty. Three minutes later the men from Northumberland scored a 3rd try after a comedy of errors. Cole burst through some indifferent tackling, but the ball came loose and was deemed to have gone backwards. It was propelled into the in-goal area and Booth took an air shot at it but caught it enough to seemingly put it dead, however the ball suddenly stopped, still the wrong side of the dead ball line, and Morpeth centre James Philipps got his hand to it. Hornby converted the try to make the score 12-24, with 20 minutes left to play.
Cleck kept probing for an opening and Breakwell kicked a penalty on 64 minutes to reduce the lead to 15-24. Breakwell repeated this again after 69 minutes to bring his team within 6 points and secure a bonus point. Tony Moody was shown the yellow card for the visitors following a high tackle and Cleckheaton sensed a chance of victory. They pounded away with commendable determination but couldn't break through and the ball was lost forward. Time had run out with scoreboard at 18-24 and Cleckheaton had been defeated for the 4th time in a row. Three of these losses were to sides in the league’s top 3 and all could have gone either way on a different day. However Cleck now need to get back to winning habits to prevent a tense end to the season. There is no game for the 1st XV this week in North One East, Cleckheaton’s next opponents will be West Leeds away on 9th February.