Cleckheaton battle in vain as Sandal hold on for win

Cleckheaton win a line-out during last Saturday's National League Three North game against Sandal.
Cleckheaton win a line-out during last Saturday's National League Three North game against Sandal.

Cleckheaton slipped to a 23-16 derby defeat at the hands of Sandal in National League Three North last Saturday.

The sides scored two tries each but Sandal’s Gregg Wood converted both of his team’s and added a drop goal to ultimately make the difference in the scores by the final whistle.

An early penalty in front of Cleckheaton’s posts gave Sandal a 3-0 lead before No8 Steve Graham dummied through a gap to extend the advantage to 10 points in as many minutes.

Cleckheaton were slightly shell-shocked but fought their way back and when Matt Piper put Josh Hall into space and the winger squeezed in for a try at the corner. The conversion from the touchline narrowly missed.

Sandal pressed Cleckheaton’s line after the ball was spilled from the re-start but after a number of phases attempting to crash through, Wood, in acres of space, slotted a drop goal.

Cleckheaton countered with a Neil Chivers penalty but then saw Ben Thrower and Ryan Piercy sent to the sin-bin for technical offences within seven minutes of each other.

The remaining team defended manfully to keep Sandal out but could not stem the tide and eventually Simon Frewin scored a try which Wood improved.

Neil Chivers added another penalty goal as Cleckheaton trailed 20-11 at half-time.

The second half was very closely contested with Cleckheaton looking the better side and having extended spells of pressure near Sandal’s line but handling errors thwarted their efforts.

Wood added a second penalty goal for the Wakefield men but with five minutes to go Hall went in for his second try, again in the corner, to reduce the deficit to seven points.

The final couple of minutes were a tense affair.

Cleckheaton caught a kick and set the ball well, before Piper and Hall combined but after making good yards up the right wing, a chip over the opposition winger was fielded by Sandal’s full-back.

Two more phases followed and with Sandal’s bench bellowing instructions, Wood kicked into touch and the referee signalled full-time.

This is the third home game that Cleckheaton have let narrowly slip away from them but they will look at Saturday’s trip to Doncaster Phoenix and the home game with Kendal on October 29 as a chance to climb the table.