CLECKHEATON were unfazed by a three-hour trip to Alnwick, winning 40-7 at the North One East strugglers.
The Moorenders headed up to the most northerly club playing in the English leagues with both Ben Thrower and Craig Blackburn carrying muscle strains, and James Crowther was taken on the trip as 19th man.
The decision proved wise as Blackburn pulled up in the warm-up, handing Crowther a seat on the bench.
Despite this, any fears of an upset were soon dispelled when – in the opening 10 minutes – Richard Piper inevitably opened the scoring after he took a short ball from Jack Bickerdike at the back of a maul and powered his way over.
Ross Hayden added the conversion.
Matt Piper then followed his twin brother onto the score sheet when a disguised pass from stand-off Michael Piper threaded the centre through a gap in Alnwick’s defence, before he dummied the full-back and went in under the uprights.
Richard Piper then got his 24th try of the season when a catch and drive from a line-out close to Alnwick’s whitewash added to Cleckheaton’s account. Hayden converted both for a commanding lead.
Martin Woodhead rounded off the first 40 minutes when he gathered a cross-field kick from Mike Piper on the bounce and – despite the attention of the opposition winger and full-back – managed to stay on his feet and twist in the tackle to touch down.
The conversion attempt drifted wide but Cleckheaton had worked their way into a 26-0 lead at the break.
The home side showed commendable spirit at the start of the second half and took the game to their visitors, but Cleckheaton’s formidable defence appeared to rise to the challenge.
However, the persistence of Alnwick eventually paid off when two successive quick penalties allowed their pack to work its way over the line and hooker Sordy was credited with the touchdown.
Cleck were not in the mood for allowing a comeback and climbed through the gears again.
The fresh legs of Alex Dawson, Andy Piper and James Crowther renewed the visitors’ enthusiasm and coupled with several sparkling carries from Rob Afoa-Peterson forced Alnwick on to the back foot.
Hayden very nearly added to the try tally but was held up short, before Dawson hit a gap at pace and sprinted through to score under the sticks.
With what turned out to be the last play of the game, James Wilson shook off a would-be Alnwick tackler close to the line, and strolled towards the uprights for Cleckheaton’s sixth try of the day.
Hayden converted both to provide a final score of 40-7.
This was a competent, assured performance from the league leaders.
This weekend Cleckheaton host Wheatley Hills at Moorend and will be looking for another good performance before the league programme takes a week off and makes way for the Yorkshire Cup.