Cleckheaton on the Road again
Despite playing the game next to a frozen pond which would have better suited the Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey team, Cleckheaton were sure-footed on the Bingley semi-permafrost.
The chilly conditions could not deter a flying start from Cleckheaton as great aggresive drives from Marcus Abbot and Ayman Khan put the Bradford and Bingley Bees on the backfoot; George Gillgrass was on hand to score his first of seven tries in the game.
A big Bees pack was also proving troublesome to Cleckheaton and only a fine relieving open-play dash from Danny Sharp from his own try line prevented a score for the home team. Back in control, the gargantuan Sam Eastwood thundered up the pitch and great clearing out by Eugene Rounding and the ever-present Abbot set up another score for Gillgrass.
Despite early dominance, Cleckheaton gave the Bees a lifeline as poor tackling allowed the home team to score from a penalty restart. The terrier-like Jack Wilson was asserting great pressure in and around the ruck and Khan was unlucky not to score as he was bundled into touch just short of the line. Alex Summerscales made a good blindside run from the base of the scrum only to be forced over the whitewash by the fullback. Gritty William Wagstaff was proving a dogged customer in both attack and defence. Frankie Lawson was an annoyance to the Bees defence as he was difficult to put down with ball in hand. Gillgrass scored his third however poor tackling from a penalty allowed the Bees back into the game.
With the score 3-2 to Cleckheaton at half time, a war of attrition developed in the second half as both teams seemed content to turn the match into a Yorkshire version of the Eton Wall Game. After encouraging words from the referee, the now scrum cap-less Sharp had a look of Jean Pierre Rives as he jinked his way through the Bees defence.
As usual, Khan did one of his customary bulldozer runs through midfield and Abbot, as ever, was on hand to lead the clearing out duties. As the half continued, Cleckheaton stopped doing the basics as as they persisted to tickle and not tackle the opposition. Inevitably, poor tackling from the scrum allowed the Bees to walkover unopposed to score the equalising try. Poor Cleckheaton tackling continued however Wilson did manage to show his teamates how to do it with a great try-saver. Two quick Bees tries put the home side in the ascendancy and lesser teams would have buckled under such intense pressure; not so Cleckheaton who dug deep and managed to get themselves back into the game. Abbot led from the front, and with able assistance by Rounding and Wagstaff, managed to set up a couple of tries for Gillgrass who accelerated and weaved through the Bees defence like The Stig on the Top Gear test track. In the closing minutes of the match, both teams exchanged tries and with the scores level it looked like the game was heading for a stalemate.
Not quite though, from deep inside their own half and from the lineout, an interchange of passes between Sharp and Summerscales saw them execute a lovely run-around play; Sharp turned on the afterburners and sped past would-be tacklers only to be stopped short of the line. Luckily his "partner in crime" Summerscales was on hand to swoop and pick up the ball, barge two Bees tacklers out of the way and dive over the line to score the match-winning try.
Player of the Game Award - George Gilgrass
Clear out King & Top Tacker - Marcus Abbott
Top Training - Ayman Khan