CLECKHEATON were unable to build on the previous week’s great win at Pocklington as they fell to a 17-11 defeat to Driffield at a windswept Moorend.
It leaves them just four points above the relegation zone, with a weekend off before a crucial away fixture at already-relegated Consett.
Cleck made two changes to the winning team at Pocklington. Full-back James Wilson and centre Ollie Depledge both missed out with knee injuries so Brad Marsden filled in on the right wing with Mike Swetman at full-back. Tom Austin was on the bench with Ben Dearing and Henry Iwanejko.
There was very little to choose between the teams in the opening exchanges but Driffield got the scoreboard ticking on 20 minutes after a high tackle gave James Watts a penalty goal from 20 metres out.
Cleckheaton went very close a couple of times, when Mikey Hayward was put into space down the left and fed Danny Booth, but the pass was deemed forward. Ryan Piercy was also held up over the line as Cleckheaton applied considerable pressure without success.
It took until the final seconds of the half for Cleckheaton to finally open their account, with a 35-metre goal by Dale Breakwell leaving the sides tied 3-3 at the interval.
Very early in the second period, Watts added his second penalty goal to push Driffield ahead again.
Tom Austin took to the field with Josh Plunkett making way, and he was unfortunately joined on the bench moments later when Matt Piper was sent to the sin bin; the referee finding fault when Cleckheaton’s captain came right through the centre of a ruck to turn over the ball.
Driffield took immediate advantage with the scrum option and, when the ball was moved to the left, centre Gary Stephenson crashed over near the corner flag. The conversion fell short to put the score at 11-3 to the visitors.
Cleckheaton were getting across the gain line but on several occasions the ball was inexplicably put to ground as handling errors thwarted their progress.
On the hour Breakwell reduced the lead to one score with a penalty goal as the Driffield number eight Brankley was sent to the sin bin.
That put Cleck in the ascendency, and more pressure and quick hands by Breakwell and Swetman put Hayward into a gap and the centre stepped around the defence for his 11th try of an impressive season. The kick was missed though, making the scores level again at 11-11.
However, the increased morale was short-lived as several players watched motionless as the restart was allowed to bounce.
It was pounced on by a Driffield player who got deep into the Cleckheaton 22 before being brought down illegally, and Watts added another goal to put his side back in front.
This lead was extended to 17-11 with six minutes remaining when Watts added another penalty for the visitors.
Cleckheaton had two more try-scoring chances held up on the line on the left before being awarded a penalty, which they kicked to touch for a lineout 5m out for the final play of the game.
Driffield didn’t contest the lineout but instead shaped to repel the push. A Driffield forward fell onto the floor on the gain line and a couple of players in Cleckheaton’s rolling maul fell trying to straddle the obstruction. The ball became trapped and the referee awarded Driffield the scrum, bringing the match to an end and leaving Cleck with nothing but a losing bonus point.