Kestrels fly high in promotion race

Cleckheaton Kestrels 62

Knottingley 0

The Kestrels earned a comprehensive victory at Moorend over Knottingley seconds, who were weakened by a handful of their regular side being called up to first team duty.

Nevertheless, Cleckheaton put in an excellent team performance, which would have tested any side in the league.

Mark Fletcher scored the first of the Kestrels 10 tries, following a good run from Nathan Clayton, which set up a ruck five metres out.

The wily scrum-half picked up, dummied a pass to a runner and stormed through the resultant gap for an unconverted try.

Knottingley responded well and helped by a flurry of needlessly conceded penalties, pressurised Cleck’s line for what would turn out to be the only time in the game.

The home side’s defensive line held firm, however, and after several phases of pressure the ball was cleared over the half-way line.

It was Cleck’s turn to go on the attack, which they did in abundance.

The forwards rumbled well at the back of the rucks and the backs created space with incisive running.

Winger Andy Edwards and front rowers Ben Thrower and Ricky Motlib went very close and Chris Piper was twice held up over the line before stand-off Ross Hayden jinked his way over from one of the ensuing five metre scrums. Hayden converted to bring the score to 12-0.

From the restart, Nick Holland’s barnstorming run allowed Danny Graham to advance the ball further before Luke Bashforth took the final pass and sprinted the last 20 metres for another quick try.

Knottingley continued to fight back but it wasn’t too long before the bonus point was in the bag, Aiden Bullen supported a dynamic drive and forced his way over.

Neil Gillan added the fifth and final try of the half, following a Knottingley lineout on their ‘22, which was turned over by Matt Beasty.

The maul which formed following the catch was rolled right then left before Gillan saw a gap and darted through for a try. Hayden added the extras and the Kestrels led 29-0 at half-time.

Coach Gordon Piper demanded more of the same in the second period with simple team rugby being the order of the day.

From the restart the Kestrels continued to exert their dominance and good passing between Hayden and Lamb put Adam Stanley away in the corner.

There was no letting up by Cleck and excellent runs from the back row partnership of Sessions, Graham and Quinn, who had joined the fray at half-time, put Wilson through a gap and he raced away for a try from 30 metres. Hayden converted to make it 41-0 and then took centre stage with a trademark jinnking run, breaking through and having the pace to round the full-back.

The stand-off completed his hat-trick with another quick score, both of which he converted. Bullen went in for his second and rounded off the scoring when he supported a break from Quinn and had the speed to run in from long range. Wilson converted.

A powerhouse performance from the Kestrels, which takes them one step closer to Merit League promotion.