CLECKHEATON made it two home wins out of two with a deserved victory over Huddersfield YMCA at a sun-drenched Moorend.
They bounced back in perfect style from their previous defeat at Percy Park, showing great fitness to come from behind in the second half and earn a bonus-point win (32-20).
Cleck had to cope with a couple of late changes to the team. Skipper Matt Piper was a late withdrawal and was replaced by James Wilson on the right wing with Mikey Hayward starting at inside centre, whilst Brad Marsden was awarded the captaincy. Niall Jackson returned in the front row, with Archie Rika-Rayne, Cain Crotty and Charlie McGovern on the bench.
Cleckheaton opened the scoring on three minutes after good driving by the pack and a measured cross-field kick from Dale Breakwell found Wilson. YMCA’s defence were committed to the ruck and the ball was spun left for Jack Seddon to stroll over the line for a first try this season by a Cleck forward.
Breakwell added the goal to make it 7-0, and then slotted a 25-metre goal to put his side 10 points in front after as many minutes when YMCA were guilty of not releasing in a tackle.
The Huddersfield side hit back after winning a penalty and kicking to the corner. Stout defence saw the ball held up over the line but from the five-metre scrum that followed Sean Barrett crossed for a try, which was converted by Gavin Stead.
Cleckheaton scored their second try when progress was made by Brad Marsden, Joey Carley and Tom Austin, before quick hands by Breakwell and a lovely pass from man of the match Olly Depledge put Seddon in again on 27 minutes to make it 15-7.
Cleckheaton were putting themselves under pressure by trying to force an extra pass when it may have been better to take the tackle and go through the phases again. On 32 minutes Seddon was penalised for an offence at the ruck and Stead kicked the penalty to take the score to 15-10.
With two minutes to go in the half YMCA took the lead when outside-half Alex Bull powered through some ragged tackling to score next to the posts. Stead added the goal so the visitors led 15-17 at half-time.
Cleckheaton had a couple of opportunities to regain the lead early in the second half. Breakwell narrowly missed a 45-metre penalty and also tried an outrageous drop-goal from a similar distance that very nearly made it. The Moorenders also knocked on in a promising position deep inside the opposition 22.
However, Cleck’s front row of Andy Piper, Rika-Rayne and Jackson took the ball against the head and Depledge put Wilson in for an unconverted try. Stead added another penalty for a hand in the ruck offence to level the scores at 20-all and the last quarter was set to be a thriller.
YMCA got an advantage when Cleck full-back Jack Marshall was adjudged to have illegally slowed the ball down as they pressed the line. He was dispatched to the sin bin for 10 minutes but the hard graft delivered by strength and conditioning coach Lee Queeley in pre-season now came into its own and a fitter-looking Cleckheaton would not be breached despite the disparity in numbers.
A monstrous kick out of defence by Breakwell led to YMCA getting penalised for not releasing. Whilst they were expecting a routine kick at goal, Breakwell took a quick tap and, after exchanging passes with brother Tom, went in for an opportunist try, which also earned Cleck a bonus point. He added the goal to make it 27-20.
Cleckheaton’s fifth and last try came on the back of good work from Carley, who made some good yards down the left and handed on to Depledge, who was tackled inches short of the line. The ball was quickly recycled and Danny Booth glided in-field past the defence for a well-finished try.
YM tried to get some consolation points as the game came to an end but strong defence, with Ryan Piercy putting in a few of his classic slam-down tackles, meant their efforts came to nought.
Tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) Cleck travel to Leeds for a first league encounter with promoted side Moortown. Both teams go into the game with identical records, with two wins and 10 points each from their opening three games.