Cleckheaton came incredibly close to pulling off a sizeable upset against second in National League Three North Rossendale before slipping to an agonising 19-17 defeat last Saturday.
This was a performance that the team should take great heart from as they matched their opponents try for try but lost out on successful conversions.
A last gasp penalty could have still taken the spoils for Cleckheaton with the last kick of the game but it was not to be.
The first half was tightly contested with Cleckheaton’s forwards, led by the rampaging Richard Piper and Ryan Piercy, making plenty of headway.
Tactical kicking from Matt Piper also helped Cleckheaton gain territorial advantage.
Niall Jackson took a high shot in the middle of the park midway through the first period but although a recently issued IRB edict insists the offence is punished with a red or yellow card, neither materialised.
Good work from the forwards committed Rossendale’s defence to Cleck’s left flank. Jack Bickerdike and Neil Chivers quickly sent the ball right where Josh Hall scored the first try. The conversion was difficult and drifted wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Cleckheaton were awarded a penalty on the 40 metre line. Try scorer Hall stepped up to take the kick but the ball agonisingly hit the crossbar and bounced in field, before being booted out of play.
Rossendale started the second half with renewed vigour. They attacked Cleckheaton’s line with determination and a tackle from Lee Queeley was deemed illegal and he was sent to the sin-bin.
Jack Ward forced his way over from close range and James Bramhall converted as the visitors led 7-5.
Cleckheaton responded in tremendous fashion and battled down field. They won a line out on the visitors ‘22 and a perfect throw from Ben Thrower was caught and set by the pack before fast hands across the back line put Ollie Depledge in at the corner, with an acrobatic dive that saw the winger just get the ball to ground before his body hit the grass over the sideline. The conversion was missed.
Cleckheaton lost possession from the restart and their joy at retaking the lead was short lived as Curtis Strong gathered for Rossendale and showed power and pace to push over one Cleckheaton tackler before racing around another for a well taken but defensively soft try. The conversion put Rossendale back in front at 14-10.
Cleckheaton however were not done and Richard Piper, who had led from the front all game, powered his way over. Ronan Evans added the conversion to give them a 17-14 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Rossendale slowly worked their way up field and Paul Turner handled the ball on the floor and was sin-binned.
Rossendale opted for a scrum from which they duly scored to take a two-point lead.
With the very last play Cleckheaton had a difficult penalty goal attempt, which if successful would have brought the win, but it was not to be.
Cleckheaton Kestrels earned an impressive 10-5 win away to Ripon last Saturday.