Cleckheaton produce late rally but can’t prevent loss

Cleckheaton look to set up an attack during last week's National Three North clash at Billingham. Picture: Gerald Christian
Cleckheaton look to set up an attack during last week's National Three North clash at Billingham. Picture: Gerald Christian

Cleckheaton produced a late rally to rescue some pride and claim a bonus point away to Billingham but it was too late to prevent defeat.

Cleckheaton went down 40-25 in the north east last Saturday as they slipped back into the National League Three North relegation zone.

Cleckheaton fell behind after 10 minutes when home winger Rawdon gathered a kick by the visitors and play was quickly switched to the opposite touchline via captain Pete Evans.

Opposite winger Hopley chipped ahead and won the race to regather the ball and sprinted away for a try, which Evans converted.

Another sweeping passing move ended with Rawdon scoring an unconverted try five minutes later as Billingham led 12-0.

Good driving by Tom Austin took Cleckheaton within five metres of the line and Jack Bickerdike sent Mark Barlow over for an unconverted try.

Ronan Evans reduced the arrears further with a penalty only for Billingham to extend their lead when Pete Evans ghosted through the defence for a try he improved to put the home side 19-8 ahead at half-time.

Pete Evans left Cleckheaton’s defenders grasping at thin air as good footwork and pace took him through and he rounded the full-back for Billingham’s bonus point try and he also added the extras.

Any chance Cleckheaton had of getting back into the game was laid to rest when Bickerdike was controversially yellow-carded and the referee awarded the home team a penalty try for a tackle he deemed to be reckless.

The offending action, which amounted to sliding in to kick a ball into touch, turned out to be within the rules and the referee apologised in the bar after the game.

With Cleckheaton a man down, Billingham centre Joe Evans went in for a try between the posts, with brother Pete adding the extras to stretch the lead to 40-8.

Trailing by so many, some thought that Cleckheaton might capitulate but instead they put in a very determined last 15 minutes.

Playing to their strengths the forwards bashed their way up field, retaining possession well and driving Billingham backwards with several phases of play.

Three times they won a penalty that gave them a line out within 10 metres of Billingham’s whitewash.

On the first two occasions the pack, with the added assistance of one or two of Cleckheaton’s backs, pushed Billingham over their line for Richard Piper to register tries.

Piper then completed his hat-trick and ground out a potentially important bonus point for Cleckheaton, diving over from a short pass in the 80th minute.

Evans converted one of the three scores to give respectability to the final scoreline.

Cleckheaton were ultimately undone by the speed of Billingham’s back line with four of the home team’s six tries starting in their own half.