CLECKHEATON claimed their fourth successive victory in North One East but not without a few early alarms as the plucky Darlington outfit belied their lowly league position.
In fact it was the visitors who took the lead in the first minute when skipper Mark Baldwin kicked a penalty.
Darlington dominated the early possession and territory and it was no surprise when hooker Robert Goddard raced through to score.
Cleckheaton were struggling to string together phases of play and the lack of two first choice hookers was inhibiting their set piece possession.
The key words through the week for coaches Dave Harrison and Ian Armitage had been the danger of complacency against lowly opposition.
The initial exchanges had suggested that the words had not been heeded but slowly the momentum changed and inevitably skipper Richard Piper put their first points on the board for the home side with a try which was converted by Iain Gordon.
To emphasise how the face of the game was changing, a Darlington attack was intercepted by Ross Hayden who sprinted 80 yards for a try between the posts which Gordon converted.
This was the first try of the season for the talented full- back who has been a constant in the Cleckheaton side for several years.
His enterprising play has always seen him as a Moorend favourite and his first half performance was a continuation of his consistently high skill level.
The second half showed Cleckheaton in their more usual ruthless mode with tries in quick succession from Jack Bickerdike, his first for the club, Ollie Marns on his debut, Hayden with an excellent solo effort for his second of the afternoon and Jonno Marshall with a skilful outside break to score wide out
Gordon converted all four tries and along with a penalty completed a 100 per cent success rate for the match.
Darlington never gave up and in the last minute of injury time scored a deserved second try from Robert Goddard converted by Baldwin.
Including last week’s excellent performance in the Yorkshire Cup against Harrogate this was the fifth successive victory for the improving Cleckheaton side.
Success tends to breed confidence and although this was a performance below their most recent standards the players know that the team has match winners who have to be given opportunities to show their qualities.
The recruitment of players such as dual code player Marns can only enhance the team and in his first outing for the club showed his ability to create havoc amongst opposition defences by his elusive running and his support play.
n Cleckheaton Kestrels continued their excellent season with another away victory at West Park Leeds and even with a depleted side were too good for their opponents who recorded home and away successes against them last season — a reflection of how the side has improved under the continued guidance of Gordon Piper, Bob Wilson and Neil Gillan.
n Cleckheaton thirds lost 10-5 at Otliensians but sporting new shirts and supported by most of the fourths had a good night out on their first bus trip of the season.
n Cleck Under-10s produced their best display of the season in an 8-1 victory at Halifax.
George Gilgrass crossed for six tries but MoM was Marcus Abbott who made some powerful runs as well as being at the heart of the defensive effort.
Morgan Etherington ran from half way to score and Eugene Rounding side-stepped his way through for the other try, while Dan Crawhaw was unlucky not to score.
Cleckheaton’s Zac Harris and Felix Hampshire were loaned to Halifax and were a credit to the club in their effort in the home team’s defence.
n Cleckeaton Under-11s edged out Doncaster 38-36.
Robbie Butterworth and Jimmy Fieldhouse scored first half tries but Cleck trailed 24-14 at half-time.
Butterworth went on to complete his hat-trick, with Aaron Jackson landing a conversion.
Troy Yarrow made a powerful run to score on debut and Veron Dhesi got the final try, with Rich Noble adding a conversion.
Doncaster fought back with two tries but Cleck held on to win.
n Cleck Under-13s returned from the long trip to Ilkley with a 33-5 success.
Drew Judge-Clark (two), Ciaran Lewis and MoM Joe Tilby-Baxter (two) were the try scorers, with Dominic Howarth (three) and Darren Ali-Scott adding conversions.