CLECKHEATON returned to winning ways in a terrific game at Moorend last Saturday, battling back from 8-17 down and withstanding three sin-binnings to eventually take the spoils 20-17 against Pocklington.
They were largely unchanged from the previous week, but Mikey Hayward returned in place of the injured Mike Swetman and new signing Danny Booth was included on the bench.
The game had a perfect start for the hosts when crisp passing in the backs gave Martin Woodhead the chance to cross for his fifth try in six games. The kick was wide but Cleckheaton were five points up in as many minutes.
Pocklington looked very sharp with ball in hand and dominated possession for a significant period, making several strong bursts. Cleckheaton’s defence was robust though as they met the challenge with enthusiastic tackling across the park.
On the half hour mark Pocklington set up a rolling maul which Cleckheaton were unable to stop fairly, and after it advanced almost 50m, Josh Malkinson was deemed to have brought it down illegally and was shown a yellow card.
The visitors took advantage and spread the ball left for full-back Christian Pollock to race in and tie the score at 5-5.
Deep into first half stoppage time with Malkinson only just back on the field, Hayward threw his arm out in an attempted grab, which was adjudged to be high and he also took a trip to the sin bin.
Once again the gifted one-man advantage was enough for Pocklington to break down Cleckheaton’s defence and Pollock crossed for his second try, giving his team a 10-5 lead at half-time.
Early in the second half, Ben Dearing kicked a routine penalty goal after the visitors were caught offside, narrowing the difference to two points.
When Hayward returned from the sin bin, Woodhead left the field to be replaced by new signing Booth who was to have an impact later in the game.
Pocklington extended their lead after two missed tackles in midfield by Cleck led to a try next to the posts for winger Harry Jackson, with the conversion added for a two-score, 8-17 lead.
Cleckheaton’s spirit was not dampened though, and they hit back when slick handling by Dearing, Matt Piper and Hayward put Alex Brown in space to power in at the corner. With 20 minutes to play, Cleck were right back in it.
Ben Thrower did not help Cleckheaton’s cause when, in a solid attacking position, he chose to give the referee a mouthful, becoming the third player to take 10 minutes out of the game.
On this occasion the numerical advantage was countered by some superb defensive commitment by Cleckheaton, Jack Bickerdike, Ryan Piercy, Andy Piper and man of the match, Joey Carley, to the fore.
On 75 minutes, after a powerful run by Carley, the ball was spread out to the right and Piper and Hayward once again combined to put Booth in space. The electric pace of the winger was clear to see and he sped over in the corner, with a towering touchline conversion by Dearing bringing the applause of the crowd as Cleckheaton regained the lead at 20-17.
A nail-biting finale was in prospect as the referee added six minutes of extra time. Paul Turner illegally kicked the ball out of the ruck, but Pock opted for the scrum instead of a 35-metre kick which would have levelled the scores and denied Cleck two valuable points.
Cleckheaton’s defence did not falter and with a great effort for the full 86 minutes, Pocklington were kept at bay until they eventually coughed up the ball. Skipper Matty Piper gleefully kicked the ball out of play for a hard-earned victory.
Cleck now have the weekend off before a trip to Driffield on November 17.