Cleckheaton stage thrilling comeback to steal victory

Cleckheaton hooker Ben Thrower dives over bodies to score the fourth try against Wirral last Saturday. Picture: Gerald Christian.
Cleckheaton hooker Ben Thrower dives over bodies to score the fourth try against Wirral last Saturday. Picture: Gerald Christian.
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Cleckheaton staged a magnificent second half fightback to edge a thrilling National Three North contest 27-25 away to Wirral last Saturday.

Cleckheaton fielded a patched-up side, following late withdrawals and included 19 year olds Cameron Burnhill and Jake Jagger for their first team debuts, along with Niall Jackson on the bench.

Wirral announced their intent from the kick-off with returning captain and playmaker Craig Harvey influential in the early exchanges and he scored two of their three first half tries.

Two of the tries were converted by full-back James Annetts, who also added a penalty to give them a 22-0 lead after 30 minutes.

The Cleckheaton forwards had been strangely subdued up to this point, while Wirral had been clinical with their possession and fully deserved their lead.

The comeback began in the 32nd minute when the Cleckheaton pack secured possession from a lineout on the Wirral ‘22.

The tried and tested rolling maul was set in motion and Richard Piper skilfully manoeuvred his unit towards the line for their first try.

Oliver Akroyd, replacing flu victim Ross Hayden as goalkicker, expertly converted from the touchline.

Cleck’s body language early in the second half showed the game was far from over and they pinned Wirral in their own half with Michael Piper’s kicks effective.

Pressure on the home line brought immediate rewards when Cameron Burnhill galloped over for a fine try.

The conversion was missed but Cleckheaton’s momentum became irresistible when Danny Vento drove over following good work from Matt Piper and Rob Afoa Peterson.

Akroyd was just wide with the conversion attempt but 15 minutes later was successful in putting his side into the lead for the first time when he converted another try from Ben Thrower.

Wirral managed to work into a good field position, where they forced an offside transgression from the Cleckheaton forwards. Annetts kicked the penalty and the hosts were back in the lead.

Stand-in scrum-half James Wilson urged on his pack to regain the ascendancy and with fresh legs in Jackson and fellow 19 year-olds James Crowther and Jack Seddon, Cleck kept on the pressure.

Both sides and the spectators could sense that the game would go down to the wire and it was the visitors who took the spoils when Akroyd coolly slotted a penalty with five minutes remaining.

Wirral responded but were unable to break the defence as the Moorenders held on for a memorable win.