CLECKHEATON suffered a losing start to 2019 as they were defeated 29-19 at home to table-toppers Scarborough.
The visitors showed their credentials and deserved their victory on the day, but Cleckheaton battled all the way and had a resurgent last 10 minutes, providing coach Thiu Barnard with some positives from a game that, with better ball retention, could have had a different outcome.
It was the first time that Scarborough had been welcomed to Moorend for a league game in two decades, and Cleck were hoping to continue a run which had seen them win three games on the bounce in the run-up to Christmas.
They made two changes to the team from the last game of 2018, a derby victory at Bradford & Bingley, with Joey Carley returning in place of player-coach Barnard and Brad Marsden returning to lock in place of Matt Wood, who with Josh Clough replaced Ben Etchells and Will Denham on the bench.
Cleckheaton made a bright start and after three minutes a Scarborough player gave his opinion to referee Andy Baker and was duly penalised, with Dale Breakwell kicking the goal from 35 metres to give Cleck a 3-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long though as Jack Bickerdike and Jack Seddon made a mess of a pick up from a scrum and with quick hands to the right, Scarborough full-back Perrett strolled across to score a try to put his side 5-3 in front. Breakwell restored the lead with another penalty on 23 minutes after the visitors were caught offside.
On 32 minutes Cleck won a penalty in their own 22, but a bit of backchat saw the decision reversed and again with excellent hands and line speed down the blind side, Scarborough number eight Ben Martin went into a gap for a try. The conversion was missed again and the score moved on to 6-10.
A fine cross kick by Breakwell put winger Danny Booth into space but he slipped trying to cut inside his man and a good chance was lost for the hosts. Mike Swetman made some telling breaks as half-time approached, but the Scarborough defence was able to scramble and snuff out the threat.
Cleckheaton also didn’t help themselves by needlessly kicking away possession on several occasions. Scarborough flanker Govier was sent to the sin bin with 39 minutes played, but at half-time they remained four points in front.
The visitors were reduced to 13 men after another sin bin early in the second half, and Cleckheaton really should have capitalised. Scarborough’s defence was top drawer but Cleckheaton helped them by not playing with enough patience.
On 50 minutes, with Cleck applying pressure on the Scarborough line, Josh Plunkett could not keep hold of a pass that was rocketed towards him and the ball came loose in a crunching tackle. The kick ahead went to hand and Perret crossed again for a long-range try, converted by Young. The visitors’ lead was now 6-17.
Cleck had a lot of possession in good field position but they couldn’t get the scoreboard moving, and on 68 minutes Scarborough got their bonus point try after another length-of-the-field effort by scrum-half Wakenham.
Barnard rang the changes and brought Ben Dearing, Wood and Josh Clough into play, with James Wilson switching to scrum-half in place of Bickerdike.
Breakwell got his third penalty goal of the game with 10 minutes remaining and when some quick thinking by Cleckheaton’s man of the match Swetman saw Hayward into space to cross on the left for his 10th try of the season on 76 minutes, a bonus point was still possible.
However, Scarborough ended that idea with a fifth try of the game by Govier after a counter attack from deep went awry, the ball was lost and the flanker scored under the posts converted by Young.
There was still time left for Cleckheaton to add another score and Booth crossed for his sixth try since joining the club, although the conversion from the touchline went wide.
The score was now 19-29 and any points in the dying minutes from Cleck would have put them into losing bonus point territory, but time wasn’t on their side and the referee blew the final whistle.
They will look to return to winning ways tomorrow (Saturday, 2.15pm) when they again host visitors from the East Coast in the form of Bridlington.