Cleckheaton’s survival bid boosted by timely victory

Richard Piper scores his second try for Cleckheaton against Ilkley
Richard Piper scores his second try for Cleckheaton against Ilkley

Cleckheaton held on to secure a vital 17-13 victory over Ilkley and boost their hopes of avoiding relegation from National League Three North.

Cleckheaton survived being down to 13 men for eight minutes to claim a win that moves them within two points of fourth-bottom Birkenhead Park.

Joe Rowntree got Ilkley on the scoreboard with a penalty goal but the visitors were then caught in possession and conceded a penalty.

Ronan Evans kicked the ball to the corner and Cleckheaton’s powerful pack would not be stopped.

An assured throw from James Crowther and clean catch by Luke Pearson set up the ball up for the drive, which resulted in an unconverted try for Richard Piper.

Ten minutes later Ilkley winger Paul Petchey was sent to the sin bin and from the penalty, Cleckheaton kicked the ball to the corner again.

Paul Turner and Mark Chivers hoisted Ryan Piercy to the throw and the pack drove Richard Piper over for his second try to put Cleck 10-3 up before the home side saw Jack Seddon sin-binned for entering the ruck from the side.

Rowntree kicked a penalty after the break and the game seemed to be heading Ilkley’s way when a well worked backs move sent a player dashing through the defence.

Mikey Hayward showed great pace to catch Ilkley’s centre, reaching for his shoulders and pulling him down.

While the Cleckheaton faithful were applauding a great cover tackle, the referee brandished his yellow card for what he considered a high tackle and Hayward had a spell in the sin-bin.

Richard Piper was then sin-binned two minutes later as Ilkley pressurised.

The Moorenders seemed up against unlikely odds to keep Ilkley out while down to 13 men but in what could be a pivotal point in the season, rose manfully to the challenge.

The ball was kept tight in the forwards with Matt Piper eager to add his enthusiasm from the centre to drive Ilkley back and keep possession away from their line.

The 10 minutes passed and Cleck, restored to full compliment, went back on attack.

From a line-out, a fifth yellow card of the day was awarded, this time for Ilkley’s Elliot Morgan.

Cleckheaton’s forwards set up a ruck and Michael Piper slipped into the stand-off position. A quick pass from Bickerdike found Piper, who split Ilkley’s defence before a short pass put Matt Piper through a gap and between the posts.

Evans added the extras to propel Cleckheaton into a 17-6 lead.

Ilkley got a consolation try through Pat Power, which Rowntree converted, earning the visitors a bonus point and making for a tense last five minutes but Cleckheaton managed to hold on to secure a valuable victory.