Photo: Gerald Christian
By Steve Gates
CLECKHEATON’S second-string Kestrels team entertained Yarnbury and came away with a dramatic win (29-26) thanks to a try in the final minute of the game.
Their hopes looked desperate when they let a 22-7 lead turn into a 26-22 deficit in the closing stages, but full-back Elliott Whetham dummied his way across the line for the match-winner.
Kestrels had to make a last-minute change to the selected team as Will Denham took the place of prop Henry Iwanjenko, with Niall Jackson filling in on the bench.
Yarnbury had the better of the early exchanges and the centre made a powerful run to open the scoring on 12 minutes, with the conversion making it 7-0.
The Kestrels fought back strongly and dominated possession for the next 20 minutes with Yarnbury hardly getting out of their 22 area. After a quick tap penalty, Drew Judge-Clark made a strong burst up the middle and offloaded to Ben Etchells who scored under the posts, and Ben Dearing added the goal to level the scores.
Denham and Wade Laycock made strong ball carries and kept the visitors on the back foot, and the only other score came on the stroke of half-time when Dearing kicked a 20-metre penalty to give Cleckheaton a 10-7 lead at the break.
Four minutes into the second half, after Kestrels had won clean ball at a lineout, quick hands down the line saw Ed Curley cut inside the final defender for a fine try, although the conversion couldn’t be added.
Kestrels were in control at this stage when a series of drives saw Etchells stopped short of the line and Callum Green, who came on as a replacement, denied by the referee who deemed the player was held up over the try line.
On 59 minutes, following a series of infringements near the Yarnbury line, the referee awarded a penalty try and the score was extended to 22-7.
A dramatic passage of play followed as Cleck conceded three tries in seven minutes to see the game turn around.
Firstly, the left wing worked his way into space to crash over the line and, after Jarrod Toulson failed to find touch with a clearance, some poor defence allowed Yarnbury to break through five or six would-be tackles to score again and make it all to play for at 22-19.
In the 73rd minute, Yarnbury took the lead after sustained pressure led to a try under the posts, with the goal kicked to ensure that only a try would do for Cleckheaton.
When the Yarnbury prop was yellow carded on 75 minutes the game went to uncontested scrums and, with play deep in the Yarnbury 22, the Kestrels battered the visitors’ line in an attempt to secure victory.
Robin Bennett and Etchells drove in hard and, when the ball was recycled to the left, Whetham got the dramatic score and Dearing converted.
The Kestrels face tough challenges in the next two weeks against the only two teams to have defeated them this season, with a home derby with Ossett tomorrow (Saturday) followed by a trip to Harrogate Pythons the following weekend (February 8).