Photo: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON battled hard to secure maximum points away at bottom side Huddersfield YMCA at a windswept Laund Hill (15-27).
The win, a fifth in a row in the league, took the Moorenders above Driffield and into second place in the table, their highest placing in five years.
While they were not at their best, with a number of missed tackles which against better-quality opposition would have caused problems, they defied three yellow cards to earn victory.
Cleckheaton made one change from the dominant 47-14 win over Percy Park the previous week, as Brad Marsden returned at lock with Ben Etchells dropping to the bench.
YMCA played with a gusting wind in the first half and took a shock lead after just four minutes when good ball retention drove Cleckheaton back and, from a driving maul, they crossed for a try.
This stirred the visitors into urgent action against a YM team that hadn’t recorded a win all season. On 12 minutes, Dale Breakwell floated a fine kick towards the left wing, Mikey Hayward offloaded the ball to Jack Seddon and he romped over for his sixth try of the season.
At the halfway point of the first half, Olly Depledge and James Wilson combined and Hayward cut back inside to record his 13th try of the campaign, with the conversion making it 12-5.
YM cut the lead with a 20-metre goal awarded for offside on 30 minutes, but Hayward crossed for his second try of the game shortly after, thanks to good work from Tom Lillycrop and Seddon.
Four minutes before half-time, Cleckheaton were reduced to 14 men when Ben Thrower was yellow-carded for failing to clear the ruck. Archie Rika-Rayne came on and Joey Carley was sacrificed for this period either side of half-time.
Early in the second half YM mounted a concerted attack to batter the Cleckheaton line. After a couple of infringements near the line, Jack Marshall tried to intercept and was deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball on. Worse was to follow as he was dispatched to the sin bin and the referee awarded the penalty try to narrow the score to 17-15.
Marsden was securing plenty of lineout ball in the difficult conditions and carried the ball well, making some surging runs alongside flanker Lillycrop. Cleck prop Andy Piper was then pulled out for a high tackle and became the third player to spend time in the bin on 62 minutes.
YMCA hooker Hill was playing well but he was the next to incur the wrath of the referee four minutes later and he was dispatched to the bin too. Cleckheaton finally got back on track after being on the back foot for much of the second period when Tom Breakwell crossed for the bonus-point try after a maul had rumbled some 20 metres downfield.
Two minutes later and, with Marshall restored to the field, he showed terrific pace to blast outside his opposite number before passing to Seddon to record his seventh try of the season and round off the win.
Tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 2.15pm), Cleck return to Moorend looking to extend their winning run to six games with a clash against Moortown.
The Leeds outfit are in the promotion hunt themselves, and the two sides couldn’t be separated when they met back in September for a 22-22 draw.