CLECKHEATON RUFC fell to a disappointing 33-29 home defeat in a poor display against a spirited Bridlington side.
The East Yorkshire side moved within two points of their 10th-placed opponents in the North One East table with the win, which secured a league double following a narrow victory in September’s reverse fixture.
Cleckheaton entertained Brid at a windswept Moorend on Saturday, and made one change from the previous week’s defeat to Scarborough with a family medical emergency seeing Mike Swetman drop out. Mikey Hayward moved into the centre and Ben Dearing started on the wing as a result.
Cleckheaton went behind from the first scrum of the game. Bridlington attacked down the left and winger Max Towse ran in unopposed after some very indifferent attempts at tackling, a problem which would persist for most of the game. Morrison added the conversion to give Brid a 7-0 lead.
Cleck made amends after 10 minutes when a superb rolling maul made 30 metres downfield and when Heeley interfered the Bridlington flanker was sent to the sin bin.
After a quick penalty and several phases Josh Plunkett crossed for a try which Dale Breakwell improved to level the scores. Breakwell then added a penalty goal 10 minutes later and Cleck took the lead at 10-7.
Just four minutes later Morrison was allowed to walk through a gap in the right side of Cleckheaton’s absent defence to score a soft try, which the same player converted to put Scarborough back ahead.
Jack Seddon was sent to the bin on 30 minutes to put Cleck under more pressure, but they held out more in part to Bridlington butchering some clear opportunities when they had the numerical advantage.
In fact, the next score came as half-time approached, when Breakwell put a smart grubber kick behind the line and Booth was on the spot for his seventh try for the club. Breakwell added the goal and at half-time Cleck led 17-14.
The second half began and Bridlington had the lions’ share of possession without looking to add to the points tally. On 50 minutes, Breakwell went for an ambitious penalty from 45 metres out, but the kick fell well short and Bridlington cleared to half way. A quick throw in by Matt Piper set up a sweeping counter attack and a number of phases later, Joey Carley powered over the line in the left corner for an unconverted try to extend the lead to 22-14.
At two scores ahead, Cleckheaton seemingly had the game in their hands at this point but inexplicably everyone ball-watched as Bridlington restarted. The old adage is never let a rugby ball bounce, and this was a case in point as an easily catchable ball was left to hit the ground and bounce into the hands of a Bridlington player, with centre Daniel Vannet scoring a few seconds later. Morrison converted to leave one point in it.
James Wilson was dispatched to the bin and Bridlington took full advantage of the full-back’s absence by running in two tries in seven minutes to take the game by the scruff of the neck, as Cleckheaton’s tackling was again a cause for concern.
Bridlington converted one of the two tries and suddenly had an 11-point lead going into the final minutes at 22-33.
Cleckheaton then decided to start playing and looked something more like it. On 78 minutes Dearing popped up to score in the right corner and Breakwell converted into the wind, assisted by both post and crossbar, to make the score 29-33.
Cleckheaton now had a try bonus and a losing bonus point but there was still time left for more action. Cleck kept applying pressure on the line and Brid lost two men to the sin bin in their desperation to keep the Moorenders out.
With the final play of the game, Cleckheaton replacement Ben Etchells looked to have got the ball down over the line but referee Gavin Jones deemed it was held up and the whistle blew for full-time.
There were some mutterings at the end that Cleckheaton had been denied victory, but if the try had been given it would have robbed a Bridlington side that turned up with more desire and application than Cleckheaton and deserved their victory on the day.
Cleckheaton need to tighten up their defence in open play with a tough encounter expected tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) away at third-placed Huddersfield YMCA.