Cleckheaton produced a creditable second half display but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 58-22 defeat at Sandal in National Three North.
An understrength Cleckheaton, plagued by injuries to key players, were 29-0 down at half-time but continued to battle and were rewarded with a bonus point try.
It took just two minutes for Sandal to open the scoring, with a Greg Wood penalty.
Flanker James Briscoe burst clear to cross unopposed with winger Dave Martin latching onto Rob Norbury’s pass to cross in the corner. Wood added both goals.
Tempers flared with Sandal’s Tom Austin and prop Luke Norbury joining Paul Turner in the sin bin.
Simon Frewin raced over from halfway, before Gareth Newman secured Sandal’s bonus point try to give them a commanding interval lead.
Cleckheaton spilled possession at the start of the second half and Newman raced clear from half way to score between the posts and give Wood a simple goal. At 36-0, things looked bleak for the Moorenders.
Cleckheaton responded with two quick tries as they began to play some quality rugby.
Danny Vento was credited with the try following a powerful rolling maul and Michael Piper sped through a gap in the home defence to score a good try, which Ross Hayden converted.
Sandal replied with a second converted try from Briscoe but Cleckheaton continued to battle and scored two further tries.
Winger Craig Blackburn intercepted a pass to race clear and touch-down before further pressure in the home ‘22 saw stand-in scrum-half James Wilson sneak through a gap to dive over and secure the bonus point.
Wood landed another penalty at the other end but soon after the Sandal captain was stretchered from the field after falling awkwardly.
Sandal scrum-half Joe Bedford added a further try before Gareth Newman completed his hat-trick with full-back James Ellar converting.
Having now played the league’s top three sides away, Cleck must learn from the experiences and move forward against the weaker teams.
Cleckheaton Kestrels earned a comfortable win at home to Sandal, the thirds enjoyed a 50-point rout over Heath seconds, while the fourths earned a bonus point in defeat at Ilkley.