Team Northumbria 17
Cleckheaton went into last Saturday’s game after a week-off following a bonus point win at Middlesborough.
A contest against the students of Northumbria University, seemingly this season’s ‘easy beats’ of North One East, looked on paper to be a simple result to predict.
However, the visitors had not read the script and in the last minute of the game added to the continuation of Cleckheaton’s inconsistent season.
The visitors started well and were rewarded with some early forays into Cleckheaton’s ‘22 but robust defence thwarted any chance of them opening the scoring.
Cleck had a strong wind in their favour and following Team Northumbria’s bright start, the home side went on to dominate both territory and possession. The obvious speed of the younger students was no match for the superior strength of the Cleckheaton team and they had a number of opportunities to attack.
Winger James Wilson went in for the first try following a jinking run, after excellent passing and support from Richard Piper and Craig Blackburn. Iain Gordon added the extras to give Cleck a 7-0 lead.
Cleckheaton continued with their forward power and a rolling maul resulted in a try for Richard Piper. The conversion drifted narrowly wide.
Strong defence from the home side continued to dispel any possibility of a try for the visitors. Ed Chappelow added to their woe when he steered a catch and drive from a line-out into the goal area for an unconverted try to put them 17-0 ahead at the break.
The home side were cruising towards another five points but no side in this league can rest on their laurels.
Although Team Northumbria didn’t leave with a win, the atmosphere at Moorend at the end of the next 40 minutes, felt very much like a Cleckheaton loss. A combination of poor tactical awareness and execution from the home side and good basic rugby from the students slowly closed the deficit.
The visitors threw the ball around in hope more than anticipation and were rewarded when a break up the right saw them score their first try.
The result still not seem in any doubt but nerves tightened when Northumbria’s scrum-half dabbed through a speculative kick, which bounced nicely back into his hands for an unconverted try.
Cleckheaton could not find the forward rhythm and as frustration grew, they conceded several penalties, culminating in the sin-binning of Ben Thrower with five minutes to go.
The visitors launched a final attack and were rewarded with a try between the posts. The simple conversion earned the visitors a draw and cemented the disappointment of the Cleckheaton crowd.