CLECKHEATON produced a hard-fought, determined performance to defeat York 24-19 and advance to the third round of the Yorkshire Cup.
Both sides fielded a mixture of first and second-team players, with youngsters Ben Etchells, Callum Green, Henry Iwanejko, Charlie McGovern and Stephen Noble all making their firsts for Cleck.
They were far from simply making up the numbers though, and all played with commendable vigour to contribute to the victory.
York started the game strongly and took an early lead with an unconverted try when the dancing feet of Sam Elliott sliced through Cleckheaton’s defence.
The visitors got into their stride and Martin Woodhead made a number of strong jaunts up the wing before Mikey Hayward evened up the scores with the first of what would become a hat-trick of tries.
The elusive runner hit a nice line on the inside which Matty Piper spotted to put his centre partner through the gap, and Ronan Evans added the conversion to put Cleckheaton up 7-5 after 20 minutes.
The lead was short-lived as York showed their pace with an attack down Cleckheaton’s left flank, winger and full-back combining at pace for George Davies to score. Elliot added the extras and York regained the lead.
Just before half-time Hayward went in for his second, splitting York’s defence and evening up the scores once again. At the change of ends it was honours even at 12 a-piece.
Cleckheaton had to withstand a period of intense pressure 10 minutes after the restart, when McGovern (deliberate knock-on) and Josh Plunket (raising the legs above the horizontal) were both shown yellow cards within four minutes of each other, but despite the numerical advantage York were kept at bay.
Restored to full complement and Jack Bickerdike now in the helm behind the scrum, Cleckheaton began to apply the pressure and made good ground into York’s territory, with Jack Seddon adding some spark from off the bench.
Piper had been eager for work all game and one such carry proved too strong for York’s defence, who could only stop the player’s forward momentum when he was already over the whitewash.
Though it was only 17-12 in the visitor’s favour, Cleckheaton seemed to be in the ascendency but left an acre of ground on their left and when the ball was turned over by York, winger Harry Jinks found himself in open space to run in from the half-way line for the home side. The successful conversion saw the scoreboard tick over to 19-17 in favour of York.
This was a disappointing turn around for Cleck, who had defended like demons when down to 13 men but then conceded a fairly soft try. Confidence could have been affected but there was still ample belief and enough time, with just under 15 minutes remaining, to secure a place in the next round.
Cleckheaton took the game to York with renewed vigour and Josh Malkinson made good headway from a line-out catch before Evans floated a cross-field kick into the outstretched hands of Hayward, who brought the ball under control to complete his hat-trick and put Cleckheaton into the next round.
To add icing to the cake, Evans converted the try from the touchline with a kick that barely cleared the bar but whose success was cheered roundly by the Cleckheaton faithful who had made the trip across.
Cleckheaton’s reward is an away trip to Wharfedale in the next round.