Cleckheaton fight back to gain crucial win in relegation fight
Cleckheaton returned to winning ways in a terrific North One East game at Moorend last Saturday as they battled back from 17-8 down and withstood three sin-binnings to eventually take the spoils with a 20-17 success over Pocklington.
Cleckheaton were largely unchanged from the previous week but Mikey Hayward returned in place of the injured Mike Swetman and new signing Danny Booth was included on the bench.
The game had a perfect start for the hosts when crisp passing in the backs gave Martin Woodhead the chance to cross for his fifth try in six games, the kick was wide but Cleckheaton were five points up in as many minutes.
Pocklington looked very sharp with ball in hand and dominated possession for a significant period, making several strong bursts.
Cleckheaton’s defence was robust with enthusiastic tackling across the park.
On the half hour mark Pocklington set up a rolling maul which Cleckheaton were unable to stop fairly and after it advanced almost 50 metres, Josh Malkinson was deemed to have brought it down illegally and was shown a yellow card.
The visitors took advantage and spread the ball left for full back Christian Pollock to race in to level the score.
Deep into first half stoppage time with Malkinson only just back on the field, Mikey Hayward threw his arm out in an attempted grab, which was adjudged to be high and he also took a trip to the sin-bin.
Once again the gifted one man advantage was enough for Pocklington to break down Cleckheaton’s defence and Pollock crossed for his second try, giving his team a 10-5 lead at half-time.
Early in the second half, Dearing kicked a routine penalty goal after the visitors were caught offside, narrowing the score to 10-8.
When Hayward returned, Woodhead left the field to be replaced by new signing Danny Booth, who was to have an impact later in the game.
Pocklington extended their lead after two missed tackles in midfield by Cleck led to a try next to the posts for winger Jackson, the conversion was added as Pocklington stretched their advantage to 18-7.
Cleckheaton’s spirit was not dampened and they hit back when slick handling by Ben Dearing, Matt Piper and Hayward put Alex Brown in space to power in at the corner and with 20 minutes to play Cleck were right back in it.
Ben Thrower did not help Cleckheaton’s cause when they were in a solid attacking position and he chose to give the referee a mouthful, becoming the third player to take 10 minutes out of the game.
On this occasion the numerical advantage was countered by some superb defensive commitment by Cleckheaton, with Jack Bickerdike, Ryan Piercy, Andy Piper and man-of-the-match, Joey Carley, to the fore.
Carley made a powerful run after 75 minutes before the ball was spread quickly out to the right and Piper and Hayward once again combined to put Booth in space.
The electric pace of the winger was clear to see and he sped over in the corner to edge Cleckheaton back in front.
A towering touchline conversion by Dearing brought the applause of the crowd as they moved 20-17 ahead.
A nail-biting finale was in prospect as the referee added six minutes extra time.
Pocklington refused a 35 metre kick in front of the posts after Paul Turner inexplicably decided to kick the ball out of the ruck, an action that was outlawed at the start of the 2017 season.
The penalty goal would have levelled the scores and denied Cleckheaton two valuable league points but Pocklington opted for the scrum.
Cleckheaton’s defence did not falter and with a great effort for the full 86 minutes, Pocklington were kept at bay until they eventually coughed up the ball. Captain Matty Piper gleefully kicked the ball out of play for a hard earned victory, which saw Cleckheaton draw level on 20 points with Pocklington in the fight against relegation.