Photo: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON gained a revenge victory over Morley in a pulsating local derby at Scatcherd Lane.
Morley are the only side to have beaten them at their Moorend home all season but Cleck earned a single-point victory (17-18) to inflict only a second home defeat of the season on the Maroons in turn.
Cleckheaton were behind with 10 minutes to go but, after earlier Mikey Hayward and James Wilson tries, Dale Breakwell landed a 40-metre penalty to edge back in front and they held on for victory to remain in second place in the table.
They had a few injuries after their win over Driffield the previous week. Skipper Matt Piper was out with a thigh injury and Joey Carley hadn’t recovered from an ankle knock.
Gus Milborne filled in at centre while Tom Austin returned in the back row, while player-coach Thiu Barnard was on the bench alongside Matt Wood and Archie Rika-Rayne.
The pitch was very heavy in places and fitness levels would be vital as the game wore on.
At the first lineout, Brad Marsden took clean ball and made several yards driven on by his pack. When Morley infringed at the maul, Breakwell slotted a simple penalty goal for a third-minute lead.
Cleckheaton extended that five minutes later with a blindside burst by Jack Seddon. He fed Hayward who stepped inside the defence for his 19th try of a prolific season, although the conversion was wide of the posts.
Morley got their act together and, on 12 minutes, a great break by the full-back down the stand side pulled the defence across and he fed the ball to Tom Richmond to power over the line, with Mark Chester adding the goal.
Morley got back into the action with the forwards trying to batter their way down the middle, but they met solid resistance from Andy Piper, Ben Thrower and Niall Jackson in the front line. When the ball was shipped wide, Hayward, Jack Marshall, Ollie Depledge and Milborne put in some big hits to disrupt the home team’s progress.
The scrum was dominated by Cleckheaton, and Morley looked like the were bring overrun at times. On 22 minutes, with the away side going close through Piper and Josh Plunkett, Wilson popped up to crash over from short range for his eighth try of the season, converted by Breakwell for a 15-7 lead.
Both teams were trying to get the ball to the wings but both teams defended well as half-time approached. Rika-Rayne replaced Ben Etchells at half time.
Morley had the better of the possession early in the second half and, on 48 minutes, Chester made a fine break and turned an inside pass to Darrell Griffin who scored under the posts, with Chester’s goal making it a one-point game.
Moments later, Wilson was shown the yellow card for not rolling away and Chester knocked over the penalty to give Morley the lead for the first time.
That was the only score in the sin bin period, so Cleckheaton showed some bottle to hang on for the 10 minutes. Marshall made 50 metres downfield in a mazy run, but a forward pass ended that chance.
Coach Barnard entered the game replacing Rika-Rayne. Moments later, Depledge was put clean through the middle by Breakwell, but the referee saw a forward pass again and the move ended with a scrum.
Breakwell missed one penalty kick but Morley continued to concede penalties at the ruck as Cleckheaton kept up the intensity. On 71 minutes Breakwell lined up a 40-metre goal, the ball was well struck and sailed over the bar for his side to regain the lead.
What should have been a tense final eight minutes was dominated by Cleckheaton, so much so that Morley barely mounted a worthwhile attack. With time running out, they were camped on the Morley line but couldn’t quite finish the job off.
They conceded the penalty and Morley advanced downfield but, when the Cleckheaton team forced the turnover, the ball was cleared and the final whistle was blown.
Cleckheaton’s front row were magnificent on the day and were given the collective man of the match award.
Tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) they are back at home with Pocklington the visitors.