Photos: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON conceded three tries in the final five minutes to throw away what looked to be a certain victory against struggling Consett.
The visitors showed admirable desire to fight to the end, whilst Cleckheaton in contrast sat on their lead and coughed up three valuable league points as a result.
Not for the first time this season, the home side’s discipline let them down on the day and whilst reduced to 14 men the opposition ran in four tries.
They were entertaining Consett at Moorend for the first time, and had Mike Swetman return to the outside-half position with Ronan Evans taking up a position on the wing. Joey Carley took over the hooker’s role with Tim Mobbs ruled out with a neck injury and Ben Thrower unavailable.
The game started well for Cleckheaton, as a good move by Swetman and Matt Piper put Danny Booth clear on the left wing and he touched down for a 5-0 lead after six minutes.
Consett had lost all 10 of their league games heading into this one, but their enthusiasm with ball in hand started to put Cleckheaton under pressure. On 23 minutes, fly-half Alex Paulus sliced through some poor defensive work and scored wide out on the left, and Cook added the extras to give Consett a two-point advantage.
Five minutes later, Cleck’s Jack Seddon was shown the yellow card for a high tackle and after the Consett pack secured possession, prop forward Connor forced his way over from close range. The conversion was missed but the visitors were building a lead at 5-12.
The numerical advantage meant gaps were appearing in Cleckheaton’s defensive line and another try was added on 35 minutes through centre Dan Patchcott. Cook missed the conversion but Consett deserved the lead at 5-17, as Cleckheaton’s discipline let them down again as it has on many occasions this season.
Cleckheaton needed to wake up to answer the three tries from their opponents and, restored to the full complement, Mikey Hayward worked some space down the right and jinxed his way over the line for a fine try. Swetman failed with the conversion but the score looked better at 10-17.
As time was running out at the end of the half Booth got into space and added his second try of the game to reduce the lead further to 15-17 at half time.
Almost from the restart, following a penalty in Cleckheaton’s favour, the pack rumbled forward and Joey Carley forced his way over the line for his first league try of the season to secure a try-scoring bonus point. Swetman found his range with the conversion and the lead had swung back towards the home team at 22-17.
At this point Cleck had added 17 points in a seven-minute spell and could have gone even further ahead when replacement Will Denham powered to the line only to be halted by a last-ditch tackle. Plunkett then knocked on as he tried to dive over the line.
Despite Cleckheaton looking most likely to score another try, it was Consett who advanced the scoreboard next, when Cook added a simple penalty after the referee had penalised Cleck for offside.
James Wilson scored a great try supporting Booth and Hayward, Swetman adding the extras as the lead extended to 29-20. The same player then kicked a penalty goal from in front of the posts on 62 minutes to take Cleck’s lead to 12 points.
Wilson looked to have sealed it for certain when he got his second try of the afternoon after Consett failed to clear their lines, and Cleckheaton were now 17 points ahead with less than that many minutes left on the clock. Their prospects of victory looked better still when Consett were reduced to 14 men, with Connor sent to the sin bin.
Cleckheaton were unable to add to their score during these 10 minutes but with only six minutes remaining, this didn’t seem a necessity. However, back at full strength, Consett went in for what seemed like a consolation try to take the score to 37-25.
The visitors had the bit between their teeth because a losing bonus point was now a definite possibility. With a surprise comeback in sight, Cleckheaton were reduced to 14 men again when Booth was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock on.
Consett swept the ball wide to the left for full-back Cook to score to the left of the posts, Paulus took the quick conversion and Cleckheaton had allowed Consett to set up a grandstand finish at 37-32.
Cleckheaton put the ball back into play twice during this final onslaught but they had no possession as Consett’s ball retention was superb. In the very last minute, Paulus sliced through some shocking defence to score the equalising try under the posts, and Cook added the conversion to heap misery on Cleckheaton and the faithful throng at Moorend.
Cleckheaton renew a local rivalry tomorrow (Saturday) with a trip to neighbours Morley.