Despite a howling gale and determined opponents, Cleckheaton gained a much deserved bonus point win – a result which moved them two places up the North One East table and provides a confidence boost for their clash with leaders Billingham tomorrow.
Cleckheaton chose to play with the wind at their backs in the first half and had the majority of possession and territory but they were thwarted by solid Gateshead defence.
Eventually the pressure proved too much and tries from Ross Hayden and two from Richard Piper opened up a decisive lead, with kicks at goal a complete lottery in the conditions, Iain Gordon’s valiant attempts at conversions were blown off course, as Cleck settled for a 15-0 half-time lead.
Despite the worsening conditions, Cleckheaton produced entertaining rugby after the break.
Their pack rose to the challenge and played competent spells of rugby.
This was supported by excellent use of the short side by Matty Piper, Ross Hayden and James Wilson, which constantly had Gateshead in trouble.
Despite having the advantage of the elements the visitors rarely ventured into Cleckheaton territory, with Johnno Marshall reading several kicks and returning the ball with interest.
Midway through the half, a neat grubber kick from Matty Piper found touch.
An excellent jump from Ryan Piercy, thrust into the air by Grant Turton and Paul Turner, saw the ball snatched and from the resulting drive, replacement back rower Ed Chapelow wriggled over for a try.
The shot at goal was nicely struck only to be blown back.
Gateshead replied with a spell of pressure but Cleckheaton’s defence remained solid and forced their opponents to spill possession.
Victory was sealed with impressive vice-captain Piper, scoring the final try and registering another hat-trick, taking his tally to 14 league tries in what is proving a terrific campaign.
The conversion attempt again fell victim to the wind but the final score was a true reflection of the home side’s superiority.
The windswept crowd had been rewarded with an excellent home performance, especially from the forwards where young second row Matt Beasty and veteran Steve Worsley were outstanding.