Cleckheaton victory gives needed confidence boost

Cleckheaton's Jack Seddon attempts to force the ball down for a try during Saturday's National League Three North clash against Birkenhead Park.
Cleckheaton's Jack Seddon attempts to force the ball down for a try during Saturday's National League Three North clash against Birkenhead Park.

Cleckheaton gave their National League Three North survival hopes a timely boost with a 21-17 victory over Birkenhead Park at Moorend.

The sides met for the first time in six years, when the Moorenders won home and away, so last Saturday saw them complete a hat-trick of victories and earn four much needed points in their survival battle.

It was an excellent team performance, particularly in the second half, when the side executed the game plan to take the points.

Cleckheaton exerted early pressure but the concession of six penalties in the first 10 minutes meant Park where able to clear their lines and from a line-out, the visitors drove forward before releasing centre Danny Rich to dive over in the corner.

Prop Paul Turner was sent to the sin-bin for blatantly kicking a ball out of a ruck and Birkenhead made the extra man count when hooker Stuart Brown went in to give his side a 10-0 lead.

Restored to full compliment, Cleckheaton started to play some enterprising rugby and took the game to the visiting forwards for Ryan Piercy to force his way over for an unconverted try.

On the stroke of half time Ronan Evans added a penalty to put Cleckheaton right back in the game trailing 10-8.

Cleckheaton suffered a blow early the second half when captain Richard Piper had to leave the field through injury but 20 year old Jack Seddon, stepped up from flanker to fill the No8 berth and had an excellent game.

Seddon, Piercy and Ben Thrower made good yards and Cleck went close on a couple of occasions before scrum half Jack Bickerdike feigned a pass from the back of a ruck and wriggled his way over to give his side the lead.

Birkenhead regained the ascendency when Brown directed a rolling maul over the line for his second try. Peter White converted and the visitors led 17-13.

Evans kicked another penalty goal with 15 minutes remaining following an incisive run from Tom Austin.

Cleckheaton then scored their best try of the season as winger Michael Hayward tiptoed up the touch line finding Turner in support. He off-loaded to Thrower who rounded his opponent with a deft step before flicking a pass out to second row Josh Malkinson, who completed the 50 metre move to score.

The conversion was missed but the lead wasn’t really threatened in the remaining 10 minutes and Cleckheaton claimed a well earned victory.

This was a confidence lifting win for the Moorenders, who complete the first half of their league campaign next week away at Rossendale. This win could represent a turning point and with good discipline and execution of the game plan, the team are capable of beating anyone in this league.