Kestrels stay in title hunt after fine win

Cleckheaton Kestrels no 2
Cleckheaton Kestrels no 2

Cleckheaton Kestrels 39

Wheatley Hills 7

By Andrew Hunt

CLECKHEATON Kestrels maintained their push for the Yorkshire Merit League Division Two title with an impressive victory over Wheatley Hills last Saturday.

With the first team match against Morpeth called off, the Moorenders’ second string took centre stage and turned in an impressive display, which entertained the larger than usual crowd.

The Kestrels completely dominated Hills, running in seven tries, as they earned a bonus points victory, which maintains their challenge near the top of the table.

Cleckheaton gave first teamer Andy Piper a run-out, while the match also gave head coach Dave Harrison the chance to watch flying winger Lee Queeley in action.

Harrison will have been delighted that both players ended on the scoresheet and Queeley could well make the step up to the senior side soon after turning in an excellent attacking display.

Cleckheaton made a good start and could have taken the lead inside five minutes when Ricky Motlib charged up the left and fed Adam Stanley but he was taken into touch just short of the line.

Two minutes later, the Kestrels pack shoved Chris Piper over the line and although he looked to have grounded the ball, the referee was unsighted and the effort was ruled out.

Hills were penned in their half as Cleckheaton continued to storm forward, although a combination of solid defending and some desperate clearing kicks helped keep their line intact.

Back-to-back penalties put the Kestrels on the attack and they moved the ball inside. Gareth Lamb stepped out of a tackle and stormed over to touch down at the side of the posts but again the effort was chalked off for a forward pass.

Wheatley Hills’ resolve was finally broken after 30 minutes. Nick Holland made a good break up the left and the ball was moved to Andy Piper, who barged past two defenders and crashed over for the first try, which Jarrod Toulson converted from wide out.

The Moorenders extended their lead five minutes later when they turned over possession and quickly moved the ball out wide. Aiden Bullen fed Lamb, who drew the defence and slipped a pass out for Stanley to dive over in the corner for his first try of the season.

Cleckheaton then added a third try in first-half injury time as Chris Piper made a break to set up a good field position.

The ball was moved, first left and then back right to stretch the Hills defence and Queeley side-stepped a defender and darted for the line.

Although he was stopped just short, the ball was moved to the blindside for Craig Blackburn to score and put the hosts 17-0 ahead.

Any chance of a Hills fightback was ended just three minutes after the break when Bullen made a terrific break, drew the last defender and slipped a pass out for Queeley to score a simple try, which Toulson converted.

Cleckheaton made a triple substitution but continued to dominate and after good work from Chris Piper and Stanley took them close, Andy Piper peeled off the back of a maul and dived over for his second try.

The impressive Toulson then hammered a penalty into the corner and scrum-half Mark Fletcher gathered the ball from the back of a maul to score and extend the lead to 34-0.

From a rare attack, Wheatley Hills hit back with a consolation try, as they stabbed the ball to the in-goal area and full-back Blackburn gathered and took it away from the line only for the referee to award a penalty try after judging an attacker had been impeded and the conversion was added from in front of the posts.

Cleckheaton had further chances before a seventh try in the final minute as the pack drove over the try line following a line out and Richard Piper emerged from under a pile of bodies having grounded the ball to round off a very pleasing afternoon for the Kestrels.

Cleckheaton Kestrels: Blackburn; Queeley, Lamb, Bullen, Stanley; Toulson, Fletcher (Davis 55); C Piper, Motlib (Graham 43), A Piper, Holland (Thrower 43), Beasty, Bashforth (R Piper 43), Brook, Sargeant.