Cleckheaton denied by Billingham’s steely display
Cleckheaton were unable to return from Teeside with any National League Three points as they slipped to a 17-7 defeat at Billingham last Saturday.
Cleckheaton were without Rob Afoa Peterson, Matt Piper, Lee Queeley, Ben Thrower and Tom Hanson due to injury and other availability so coach Ian Armitage was able to field promising youngsters James Crowther, Niall Jackson, Brad Marsden, Josh Plunkett White and Jack Seddon.
Cleckheaton played into a strong breeze in the first half and found it difficult to get out of their own half.
From the rare scoring opportunities, poor handling turned over possession before any real pressure was built up.
Billingham captain Pete Evans always looked dangerous with mazy runs from fullback.
Midway through the first half, a quick tap penalty from Evans and good handling by Billingham’s three quarters put winger Elliot Husband in at the corner for an unconverted try.
Using the wind to their advantage the home side piled more pressure on Cleckheaton and No8 Liam Armstrong scored close to the posts. Evans converted.
Cleckheaton steadied the ship but found themselves 12-0 behind at half-time.
Cleckheaton started the second half with the wind at their backs and took the game to their opposition.
Within a few minutes a line-out close to Billingham’s line was driven over, with Richard Piper getting the ball down.
Ross Hayden added the extras and Cleckheaton were back in the game, trailing by just five points.
Cleckheaton were now using the wind and this time it was Billingham who found it hard to break out of their half.
However, a rare defensive lapse on Cleckheaton’s right allowed Matty Kirkby to go over for an unconverted try and put Billingham 17-7 ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
For vast majority of that time Cleckheaton battered Billingham’s line with a host of willing runners going close on numerous occasions.
A penalty in front of the posts, offered an easy three points to earn a bonus point but this was spurned as the visitors went for the win.
Cleckheaton went close on many occasions and even had numerical advantage as a Billingham player was sin-binned as they scrambled to slow down the Moorenders’ recycling.
Despite the valiant effort a large deal of credit must go to Billingham’s defence and their steely determination, they would not yield and the minutes eventually ticked by without further score.
Billingham claimed the league points and denied Cleckheaton a bonus, although the Moorenders retain fifth spot, a place above Billingham, albeit with the lead trimmed to just four points.