Cleckheaton go into new year with leaders’ status

Matt Piper gave a wholehearted display as Cleckheaton earned a last-gasp win at Rochdale last Saturday.
Matt Piper gave a wholehearted display as Cleckheaton earned a last-gasp win at Rochdale last Saturday.
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Cleckheaton head into 2014 as runaway leaders of North One East but are well aware it is a case of job half done as they bid for promotion.

Ross Hayden’s superb injury-time try at Rochdale last Saturday saw Cleckheaton clinch a 25th competitive win of the calendar year.

That form almost saw Cleckheaton clinch a top-two finish last season but they are well on course to clinch the North One East title this time around having produced some of the best rugby seen at Moorend in a number of years.

Cleckheaton hold a 19-point lead over nearest rivals Huddersfield YMCA — the only side to have beaten them this season — and West Hartlepool.

While the Moorenders can enjoy a two-week break from league action, there is the small matter of a Boxing Day run out against neighbours Old Brodleians.

While allowing many of the club’s players to have a festive run out and blow away the cobwebs, it is also a great social occasion for everyone connected with both clubs.

Last week’s 29-22 win at Rochdale typified Cleck’s spirit as they trailed by two points in the final minute until Hayden levelled with a penalty and then scored an injury-time converted try to win it.

Captain Richard Piper was at the heart of everything, barging his way up field and taking several tacklers with him each time .

Matt Piper also gave his all in a display which saw the whole side earn great praise for the way in which they turned almost certain defeat into a victory which could be seen as the defining moment of the season so far.

It is also worth noting that of Cleckheaton’s 12 remaining league games, seven are at home and it would take a brave man to bet against them being crowned champions come the Spring.