CLECKHEATON lost a dramatic game to visitors West Leeds 34-31 as two late tries brought their home winning run to an end.
They had come from behind to turn a half-time deficit into an 11-point lead, but conceded twice in the closing stages and had to make do with a couple of bonus points.
Cleckheaton made several changes to last week’s team, as Alex Brown returned at right wing and Jack Seddon was back in the team at flanker. In positional changes, captain Matt Piper started at 6, reflecting their back row injury crisis, and James Wilson and Martin Woodhead filled the centre positions with Mikey Hayward at full-back.
The first points of the game went to the visitors inside five minutes with a penalty goal by Rian Hoey. This seemingly irrelevant score would later prove to be the difference between the two sides, as both would go on to score five tries with three conversions.
Cleckheaton got the first of their tries after West Leeds failed to secure a loose ball close to the try line and player-coach Thiu Barnard pounced to collect his first try of the season. The conversion was wide but Cleck held the narrow lead.
West Leeds turned the game around with two tries in two minutes, both to winger Jack Marshall following quick hands down the left flank. Hoey converted both and took the score to 17-5 to the visitors.
On 36 minutes, after considerable pressure by the home pack, the referee ordered a five-metre scrum after Cleck were held up over the line. A slick move at the base of the scrum put Wilson into a gap and he crossed to score a try converted by Ben Dearing. As half-time arrived. Cleckheaton were back in touch at 17-12.
Cleckheaton’s bench was active as Barnard left the field injured, to be replaced by James Crowther, and Grant Fitzsimmons entered the fray, going on to win Cleckheaton’s man of the match, at the expense of Woodhead. Niall Jackson also replaced Andy Piper in the front row.
On 43 minutes, Cleck’s third try came after multiple phases and good hands from Dearing, Piper and Fitzsimmons put Hayward in the corner to level the scores at 17-17.
Ten minutes later and the lead was extended when Brown came off the wing and took a pass from Jack Bickerdike to score his first try for the club, and Dearing added the extras to make the score 24-17.
West Leeds captain Sam Neave scored the next try following good work down the right on 57 minutes, and at that point it was anybody’s game at 24-22.
Cleckheaton extended the lead again five minutes later with a good forward drive which finished with Tim Mobbs getting the ball to ground. The conversion was added by Dearing and Cleckheaton looked to be in control, two scores in front at 31-22.
West Leeds were far from done though, and turned the scoreboard on its head with two tries in five minutes.
The first was scored by replacement David Gregory who drove over for a close range effort, and then five minutes later George Carpenter crossed for the match winner, which was converted by Hoey to give West Leeds a three-point lead.
Cleckheaton picked up both a losing and a try-scoring bonus point, but this will be scant consolation from a game they let slip, as West Leeds’ enthusiasm overcame Cleck’s poor tackling.
Their defence will have to improve if they are to get any joy out of their trip to high-flyers York RUFC tomorrow (Saturday), kick-off 3pm.