CLECKHEATON earned a third straight win, ending Bradford & Bingley’s run of seven games without defeat in the process, with a tremendous 23-10 victory at a freezing, rain-swept Wagon Lane.
They made just one change from the team that beat Percy Park, with player-coach Thiu Barnard replacing Joey Carley.
Cleckheaton dominated the early exchanges. Dale Breakwell, who was excellent throughout, used the elements to good effect with a huge kick out of defence which made 60 metres and when Bees were penalised at the maul, he slotted over a routine penalty from 20 metres to give Cleck an early lead.
On 15 minutes, Mikey Hayward was shown the yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, and although Bees came into the game more with the numerical advantage they couldn’t get the scoreboard moving, as Cleckheaton maintained their defensive shape and put in a commendable shift.
The first try of the game came on the half-hour mark, when good approach work by the Bees was helped by a couple of missed tackles down the Cleck left and an overlap was worked for full-back Cameron Bainbridge to cross for an unconverted try.
Jack Seddon was having an impact with some powerful runs up the middle and when he was tackled on halfway, a penalty was awarded to Cleckheaton for not releasing. Breakwell lined the kick up from a metre inside his own half and the ball sailed between the posts to edge Cleck back in front.
Barnard was held up over the line for the visitors but the final action of an absorbing first half came deep into stoppage-time, when Bees scrum-half Lance Taylor dummied his way into space and fed flanker Ali MacDonald to cross for the try and a 10-6 half-time lead.
A couple of minutes into the second half, Bees were caught offside and Breakwell kicked his third goal, from 30 metres, to reduce the gap to a single point.
As the driving rain intensified Bees, with the biting cold wind at their backs, continued to be thwarted by a resolute defence. In the gathering gloom and with Bees on the attack, veteran centre Mike Swetman helped create a superb try to retake the lead for Cleckheaton.
Swetman put pressure on his opposite number and when the ball was spilled, he hacked downfield. He left-footed the ball 90 degrees with his final touch, to take it away from himself and his chaser but put it right in the path of the supporting Hayward, who touched down for his ninth try of the season.
Breakwell added the conversion and Cleck were in the lead with 73 minutes played.
Cleckheaton were controlling the ball well, rumbling downfield and taking time off the clock.
Props Paul Turner and Andy Piper were carrying well and hooker Niall Jackson was unstoppable, making yard after yard in a man of the match performance.
Cleckheaton put the icing on the Christmas cake when captain Matt Piper was stopped short of the line and the ball was recycled by Bickerdike, who gave a reverse pass to flanker Josh Plunkett to power over for the final try with two minutes left.
Breakwell added the goal for a personal 13 point haul and Cleck completed the double over their opponents.