Cleckheaton 22 - 26 Billingham
Cleckheaton Claim 2 Bonus Points
Cleckheaton welcomed league leaders, Billingham, to Moorend for a game which, similar to the reverse fixture in October, was sponsored by the club’s Lady Members. Despite outscoring the men from the North East four tries to two, Billingham returned home with the win but Cleckheaton gained some consolation for their efforts by securing two valuable bonus points.
This was a keenly contested encounter on a heavy pitch and from the kick off Cleckheaton took the game to their opponents. Despite early pressure, including a Cleckheaton scrum on Billingham’s 5 metre line, it was the visitors who were first on the scoreboard. A well worked counter attack from Billingham’s back line created a gap for fullback, Peter Evans, to race through for a break away try that started within his own half. The same player added the conversion and the visitors established a 7-0 lead.
Cleckheaton regained their territorial advantage from the re-start and were rewarded with a penalty but Iain Gordon's shot at goal fell agonisingly short. Evans extended the visitors lead to 10-0 with a penalty of his own before Cleckheaton made their first entry onto the score board, close to the half hour mark. Good approach work from the forwards and enterprising play by Johnno Marshall created space for Ross Hayden to dive over in the corner for an unconverted try. Just before the referee brought the first half to a close, Billingham were awarded a further kickable penalty and Evans duly obliged to give the visitors a half-time lead of 13-5.
The home side knew that if they were first to score in the 2nd forty then there would be a real contest ahead, whereas if Billingham were allowed to cross again the players would be facing an uphill battle. The Cleckheaton side came out with an attitude of intent and in the 46th minute a clean catch in the lineout by No. 8, Joe Goiti, was mauled to the line by an organised home pack and Richard Piper was awarded the try. Iain Gordon improved the score and Billingham’s lead was cut to just a single point.
The intensity of the game raised considerably but Cleckheaton were dealt a heavy blow when Richard Piper was controversially yellow carded for an alleged high tackle. Evans extended Billingham's lead with two further penalties to take their advantage to 19-12. However Cleckheaton were not done yet and almost immediately following his return from the sin bin, Richard Piper scored his 2nd try of the day and 5th in two games, when James Wilson and Johnno Marshall combined to put the flanker in at the corner. The opportunity to level the scores with a conversion again fell just short and the score remained 19-17 to Billingham.
The cause looked lost when visitors Player Coach, Chris Hyndman, managed to wriggle through a crowd of players to score a converted try on the 75th minute but Cleckheaton were still not done. With the intent to get a bonus point try clearly evident, Cleckheaton spurned two kickable penalty awards, which if successful would have secured 1 bonus point, to run the ball at their opposition. Following several phases of play, which put the crowds’ hearts in their mouths, Ross Hayden was put in space by a deft pass from Peter Murphy to go over for Cleck’s fourth try and earn the team 2 bonus points, which were just reward for the home side's enterprise.
This Saturday Cleckheaton travel up to Northumberland to face Morpeth and will hope to take the attitude and performance of their last two games into this match.