Photo: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON scored six tries against Moortown to earn a sixth win in a row (31-17) and consolidate second spot in the league table.
Thiu Barnard’s side raced into a 17-0 lead and scored three more tries to see off any threat of a second-half comeback and continue a winning run that stretches back to mid-November.
Cleckheaton hosted Moortown to Moorend for the first time in many years and welcomed Tom Austin back after missing six games through injury, while Gus Milborne came back into the team after being unavailable since Christmas. Brad Marsden and Joey Carley were unavailable for the match.
The home team started brightly and took the lead inside two minutes when prop Andy Piper forced his way over the whitewash for his fourth try of the season after a lineout 10 metres from the line.
In a bizarre passage of play, both of the visitors’ centres were shown yellow cards on 10 and 12 minutes to reduce the visitors to 13 players.
Then, moments later, the Moortown touch judge was ordered from the field after offering his opinion to referee Chris Binnie.
Cleckheaton took advantage of the gaps in the backline immediately when right wing Jack Marshall blasted over in the corner for his ninth try of the season, expertly converted by Dale Breakwell to make it 12-0.
Moortown put in some telling runs but the Cleckheaton defence was rock solid with Jack Seddon and Josh Plunkett putting in big hits and, when in possession, Austin, Tom Lillycrop and Milborne making the hard yards downfield.
Hooker Ben Thrower was next on the scoreboard when he controlled a maul and crashed over the line on 27 minutes to record his seventh try of the campaign, although Breakwell struck the upright with the conversion.
Moortown opened their account on 39 minutes when the loose-head prop found himself in space to score a try and pull the half-time score back to 17-5.
Cleckheaton got the bonus-point try four minutes into the second half when Seddon got on the end of a great break by Austin, who handled twice in the move to score out wide on the left. Breakwell added a difficult conversion to extend the lead to 24-5.
Moortown applied considerable pressure on the Cleckheaton line and, after the home team were penalised, the scrum option was taken and the number eight picked up at the base to score the visitors’ second try.
Chris Piper and Archie Rika-Rayne entered the game, replacing Thrower and Jackson, and Cleckheaton put the game to bed on 67 minutes when Olly Depledge intercepted and raced away to score under the posts and Breakwell converted for a comfortable 31-10
Andy Piper then saw the referee’s yellow card after an adjudged high tackle on 70 minutes but the visitors couldn’t take advantage until a series of scrums close to the Cleck line saw Chris Piper dispatched to the sin bin himself, for not keeping the scrummage straight, and the referee awarding Moortown the penalty try.
There was just time for another attack by Cleckheaton but a forward pass ended the threat and the game finished with Cleckheaton convincing victors.
The bonus-point win kept Cleckheaton in second place, six points behind York with a five-point gap to Driffield behind, heading into the rest weekend. Cleckheaton travel to West Hartlepool on February 1 (kick-off 2.15pm) and a coach will be provided for supporters wishing to make the trip, with details to be confirmed shortly.