CLECKHEATON did just about enough to clinch victory in a thrilling North 1 East clash at Morpeth.
In the end, a missed penalty in the closing seconds was all that separated Morpeth from victory but the visitors will regard the result as a deserved one.
The first quarter of the game was all Cleckheaton and it appeared that they would run up a big score.
An Iain Gordon penalty and a very well constructed try from James Marshall, converted by Gordon, put the visitors in the driving seat after 15 minutes.
Morpeth had hardly touched the ball and appeared to be unable to cope with the accuracy and quick switches of play instigated by the Cleckheaton half backs.
However, the home pack had the upper hand in the set scrums and this advantage was used to the full in creating two tries for centres James Phillips and Ben Hornby, one of which was converted by Matty Jinks.
Cleckheaton were now in a game and it took strong defence to repel a series of Morpeth attacks.
The first quarter of the second half saw the visitors regain the upper hand, once again dominating territory and looking the more likely team to score.
On the hour mark and much against the pattern of play, a Ben Hornby interception try from 50 metres out, converted by Jinks, extended the Morpeth lead.
Cleckheaton dug deep and tries from Richard Piper, latching onto an Oliver Akroyd lineout catch, and Martin Woodhead, when he sneaked in skilfully in a tight space in the corner, were simply a reflection of the team’s determination and doggedness.
Both conversion attempts from Iain Gordon hit the post from wide angles but Cleckheaton had edged into the lead at a crucial point of the game.
However, the hosts had a chance to steal the win when, with virtually the last kick of the game, Jinks’s penalty effort from 40 metres hit the post and was cleared by a relieved but jubilant Cleckheaton side.
Cleckheaton’s lineout possession was good and the forwards put in a hard shift in the face of a determined but limited Morpeth pack.
Cleckheaton will be hoping for more success when they host Pocklington on Saturday.
Cleckheaton Kestrels 58
KESTRELS’ 10-try demolition of Wharfedale’s development XV keeps them top of the Yorkshire Merit League.
Tom Crewe bagged a hat-trick including Cleckheaton’s first try when he jinked through the defence.
Jarrad Toulson hit the post with the conversion but made up for it a few minutes later when he combined with centre Gareth Lamb before going over in the corner.
Nathan Clayton added to the hosts’ try tally only for Wharfedale to open their account after charging down a kick.
Any hopes of a comeback were soon dashed as Cleckheaton re-asserted their dominance with a try from Adam Stanley that made it 20-5 at the interval.
The one-way traffic continued into the second half and the Kestrels’ dominant pack laid the foundations for waves of attacks.
Tom Crewe celebrated his second of the afternoon and after a brief spell of Wharfedale pressure, Liam Goldthrope added another try from close range.
The backs then ran rampant with three tries in quick succession.
Tom Brooke touched-down, Crewe completed his hat-trick and Patrick Horrigan raced 60 metres up the wing and shrugged off three tackles to score an excellent individual try.
Jack Seddon completed the scoring a minute from time when he caught a clearance kick and returned it with interest, gliding round the opposition winger for Cleckheaton’s tenth try.
Toulson converted four out of the six second half tries to round-off an impressive outing.