Cleckheaton remain in real danger after Wirral defeat

Cleckheatons Richard Piper scores against Wirral following a drive by the pack but it wasnt enough to prevent defeat, which keeps them in National League Three North relegation trouble. Picture: Gerald Christian
Cleckheatons Richard Piper scores against Wirral following a drive by the pack but it wasnt enough to prevent defeat, which keeps them in National League Three North relegation trouble. Picture: Gerald Christian
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Cleckheaton face a tense finale to the National League Three North season on Saturday week when they must win away to Lymm to guarantee their survival in the fifth tier of English rugby

Last week’s 52-31 defeat at home to Wirral leaves the Moorenders hovering above the drop zone, with survival hanging in the balance.

The table makes for unhappy reading with just three home wins this season, which along with the 2009/10 campaign, is the lowest home return since before the millennium.

Cleckheaton were strengthened by the re-inclusion into the squad of Ross Hayden, man-of-the-match Lee Queeley and Tom Austin but they were restricted to a losing bonus point.

Cleck must now match Doncaster Phoenix’s result at Firwood Waterloo to survive the drop.

Cleckheaton’s fate is at least in their own hands and two very closely contested games at Lymm in the last two seasons makes for a thrilling last day.

Cleckheaton seemed up for the game against Wirral and the tackling effort remained workmanlike throughout.

Wirral capitalised when Cleckheaton failed to make touch from deep within their 22 and visiting captain Craig Harvey danced his way over the line. James Annetts converted.

Cleckheaton took the game back to Wirral but a spilled ball in centre field allowed the visitors to make headway, with Matt Loon eventually crossing for their second try, again converted by Annetts.

An excellent break from Jack Seddon took the back row man within a few yards of the line.

His progress was only stopped by a high tackle from a Wirral defender and after consulting the RFU appointed touch judge, the referee awarded Cleckheaton a penalty try which Ross Hayden converted.

Wirral had the last say of the half when winger Ali Baker went over for their third try.

Wirral extended their 19-7 interval lead when Paul Lewis crossed but Cleckheaton hit back with a well worked move that saw Ronan Evans and Matt Piper combine to put Hayden through a gap for a try which he converted.

Wirral then went on to score three unanswered tries through Craig Harvey, Ali Baker and Mark Williams, all converted by Annetts, to effectively take the result away from Cleckheaton as 45-14.

Cleckheaton knew with hard work they still could get a bonus point out of the game and Andy Piper barged his way over the line from close range to secure Cleckheaton’s third try.

Wirral responded with a second try for Matt Loon but for the last 10 minutes of the match it was all Cleckheaton.

The home team were rewarded for battling for 80 minutes when Richard Piper crossed to secure the bonus point and then Hayden went in for a fifth try, which he also converted.

Cleckheaton’s decisive fixture at Lymm is on April 22 when a strong performance and a win will certainly make for a great last game.

A loss could mean relegation, if Doncaster can secure a victory at already relegated Waterloo and a tense afternoon awaits.