CLECKHEATON earned a crucial derby win in North East One as they defeated Huddersfield YMCA 31-13 last Saturday to place one hand firmly on the John Bower Trophy.
The trophy is named in memory of the prop who had spells with both clubs until he tragically died in his early 40s a number of years ago, following a short illness.
The fate of the cup, which is currently held by YMCA, will not become certain until the reverse league fixture takes place in March.
On a day for remembrance, both sides observed a minute’s silence before the game to commemorate Armistice Day.
When the action began it was Cleckheaton who applied all the early pressure but the visitors’ defence proved solid and it was YMCA who got the first points on the board via a penalty goal from Gavin Stead.
Cleckheaton responded with more pressure that ended when Jack Bickerdike fed Mike Swetman from the back of the ruck and the big stand-off produced a hand-off, which made him unstoppable as he powered his way through for a try, which he converted.
Stead kicked another penalty to reduce the arrears to a point but Cleckheaton continued to press with Jack Seddon, Josh Plunkett, Luke Pearson and Ryan Piercy making yards.
Jinking runs from wingers Mikey Hayward and Pat Foulstone looked promising without putting points on the board.
Swetman crashed over from short range for his second try, which he again converted for a 14-6 interval lead.
Cleckheaton’s front row of Paul Turner, Ben Thrower and Andy Piper had YMCA on the back foot at the start of the second half, while man-of-the-match Brad Marsden worked tirelessly in the loose.
It was the back line however that would make the in roads.
Centre Matt Piper carried hard all day and another similar attack looked to be on offer but instead a delayed pass to James Wilson fooled YMCA’s defence and put Cleckheaton’s full-back through for the third try. Swetman again added the goal.
A rare defensive lapse from Cleckheaton, allowed YMCA through for a relatively soft try but it was nevertheless well taken by Stead, who also converted.
Cleckheaton coach Thiu Barnard introduced fresh legs, with James Crowther, Neil Cherryholme and Ronan Evans replacing Thrower, Plunkett and Liam Darville.
Crowther and Cherryholme got stuck in immediately and Swetman had the chance to extend the lead with a penalty, which he duly slotted through the uprights.
Evans came off the bench and added his name to the scoresheet, with a great supporting run that put him between the posts for Cleckheaton’s bonus point try, despite the fact that they were down to 14 men after Piercy was sin binned five minutes earlier under the new high tackle rules.
Swetman maintained his 100 per cent goal kicking record when he added the extras to bring his personal tally to 21 points and secure victory.
It was a good performance and confidence-building win for Cleckheaton, which moved them up to eighth place in North One East with 26 points from their opening 10 games.
There was also further joy for the club when Will Denham scored a late winner for the Moorenders second team as they defeated Roundhegians 34-31, while the third team also had a healthy 54-0 victory over Heath thirds.
There is no first team game this weekend but the seconds entertain Yarnbury at Moorend, kick off 2.15pm.