Kestrels take centre stage as Harrison plans for next season

Rugby. Cleckheaton Kestrels v Northumbria. Danny Graham with the ball. (d28031151)
Rugby. Cleckheaton Kestrels v Northumbria. Danny Graham with the ball. (d28031151)

CLECKHEATON’S first XV have a break this weekend so all eyes will be on the Kestrels, who play a re-arranged Merit game against Knotingley at Moorend tomorrow (3pm).

A win would take the Kestrels top of the table with three games left and head coach Dave Harrison said: “That would be great reward for the tremendous amount of hard work by the players and coaches.”

Harrion intends giving run-outs to some members of the senior squad and said prop Chris Piper and teenage second row Matt Beasty would be in the team.

Piper has been coming off the bench in recent first team games, while Beasty played the full 80 minutes for the seniors at Pontefract last week.

Winger Lee Queeley is also selected and the listed side has no Jarrad Toulson, who has been a regular for the Kestrels this time, and intriguingly Ross Hayden is named at stand-off in his place.

The other first team squad members are given a break before a hectic period with the Yorkshire Cup semi-final at Hull or Beverley scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 with a 6.30pm kick-off.

There was a good deal of satisfaction at the third successive win over Pontefract last weekend when winger Martin Woodhead collected four cracking tries.

Coach Harrison said: “It was the best performance by the Cleckheaton backs as a set for a long time. The forwards did a sound job and gained plenty of possession but the backs really sparkled. The Pontefract coach Simon Middleton is defence coach at Leeds Carnegie and he said how impressed he was with the work of some of our young players, particularly the backs.”

The only drawback for Cleckheaton was that Matt Piper, who has been an important figure in the centre, injured a shoulder. The injury is worse than first suspected and he could be out three to four weeks.

Woodhead’s four-try feat was the first for Cleckheaton since Ryan Duckett scored four at Orrell in September 2006. There was quality work from the men inside in the build-up to most of them but on each occasion he showed good finishing ability and plenty of determination.

Harrison said: “The best was probably when he picked up a loose ball, beat two or three defenders and then showed real strength to hold off another and get over the line. It’s good to see young players taking their chances.”

The run of victories has left some at Moorend wondering what might have been in the promotion stakes had it not been for the poor run in January.

Harrison remarked: “The win at Pontefract took us into third place and if we can finish third, we would have been happy to settle for that at the start of the season. It gives us a good base to build on for next season and we have a number of very good young players who will be much better for the experience this time.

“There is still plenty to play for and we could yet make our mark in the league and the Yorkshire Cup.”