Pic: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON’S first-ever league encounter with Moortown ended honours even (22-22) as both sides claimed two league points from a competitive clash.
Cleck led 22-12 in the final quarter of the match but couldn’t see out the win, with Dale Breakwell missing a long-range penalty in the final action of the game against last season’s Yorkshire One champions.
Captain Matt Piper passed a late fitness test for the trip to Leeds while Josh Plunkett also returned, taking the places of Danny Booth and Brad Marsden who were unavailable.
They kicked off with the wind behind them in the first half but were unable to make much use of the conditions as the hosts played a very tight, forward-dominated game in the early exchanges, but the defence was first class and kept Moortown at bay, aided by some poor ball handling.
It was 21 minutes before the scoreboard was brought into use. After a long touch-finding kick from Breakwell deep into the Moortown 22, pressure was applied by Piper and Ollie Depledge in midfield which resulted in a mistimed clearance that flew high in the air towards the home try line. Mikey Hayward was quickest to react and brought the ball down to touch down in the corner and Breakwell converted from the touchline.
Moortown’s backs saw little of the ball in the next few minutes as the forward battle continued, but on 32 minutes a committed drive by their number eight created some space and a long ball into midfield saw full-back Greenwood over the line. The conversion was missed to keep Cleck narrowly in front at 7-5.
Another long kick downfield led to Cleckheaton’s forwards halting the counter attack at the resulting maul, and when the scrum was set a terrific effort shunted the home pack backwards. Seddon and Austin combined and the rest of the pack drove Tom Austin over the line for a try which Breakwell converted to make it 14-5 as half-time approached.
Early in the second half, Jack Marshall was shown the yellow card after Moortown were close to the line. The scrum option was called but a great surge by the Cleck front row of Piper, Thrower and Jackson won the ball against the head and the lines were cleared.
With Marshall still serving his time on the naughty step, a cross-field kick wasn’t dealt with by Hayward and the loose ball was scooped up by Tom Moorby, who raced away to score an excellent try. The goal was added and it was a two-point game at 12-14.
Cleckheaton defended their line like demons for the next seven minutes under considerable pressure, before a fine counter attack involving Piper, Depledge and Hayward took play into the Moortown half where a penalty was awarded for a high tackle. Breakwell stepped up and kicked the 40-metre goal to extend the lead to 12-17.
Another penalty was awarded after a Moortown player was adjudged to have collapsed a maul in midfield and quick thinking by Breakwell saw Seddon and Wilson unmarked on the far touchline. His kick found Seddon who fed Wilson for a try and a 10-point advantage.
Chris Piper and Archie Rika-Rayne entered the game as replacements for Jackson and Thrower and both had an impact with some surging runs. The hosts kept chipping away and with eight minutes remaining kicked a routine penalty from under the posts to reduce the arrears to 15-22.
The Moortown full-back put a long kick downfield, Hayward fielded it confidently but was then caught in possession and penalised for not releasing. From the resulting penalty the ball was moved left and Steve Waterhouse ran around the defence, with the conversion tying the match.
There was still time for more drama as Cleckheaton were awarded a penalty on halfway. Breakwell kicked for goal and fell just short in the final action of the game.
The two league points put Cleck fifth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s return to home territory when they entertain another newly-promoted side in West Hartlepool (Saturday, kick-off 3pm), who have only one win so far this season.