A disappointing display by Cleckheaton saw them slip to a 40-12 defeat away to Sandal last Saturday, leaving them just four points above the National Three North relegation zone.
After two very encouraging performances in January, the team’s form dipped as they allowed Sandal to amass some easy points.
Sandal are a competent side but the six tries they ran in exaggerated the differences between the two sets of players.
The home team got on the scoresheet first after a charged down kick and a fumble from Cleckheaton were capitalised on.
Winger Dom Fawcett gathered the ball and glided through some uncommitted defence for the opening try. Greg Wood converted.
Cleckheaton tried to get themselves into the match but conceded penalties which took Sandal upfield.
From a line out just outside Cleckheaton’s ’22, the home pack caught the ball and drove the forwards back at speed, until they finally crashed over the whitewash with Ash Norbury claiming the touchdown. Wood once again improved the score to give Sandal a 14-0 lead.
Cleckheaton slowly started to make their way into the game with their defensive effort much improved.
It was Sandal’s turn to commit fouls and Cleckheaton went for the corner.
A good throw from Ben Thrower and a solid set from the pack allowed Cleckheaton to drive forward, with Richard Piper getting the ball down.
From the re-start Sandal turned over possession and put Cleckheaton on the back foot again.
An initial break was stopped by scrambling defence but Sandal back rower Carolan took the ball at pace and shot to the line for a third try which Wood again converted.
Cleckheaton finished the half with the best worked try of the day, when Jack Bickerdike, Neil Chivers and Matt Piper combined to put Cammy Burnhill through a hole in the defence and the full-back sprinted 20 metres for an excellent try.
The conversion drifted wide but Cleckheaton had hope as the as they only trailed 21-12 at the break.
The second half held promise for Cleckheaton and getting the first score would have made a significant difference.
However, the game plan seemed to go out of the window and Cleckheaton’s kicking out of hand let them down.
A poor clearance kick fell straight into the hands of Sandal’s back line and Fawcett ghosted in for his second try.
Frewin, on the other wing for Sandal, scored his side’s fifth try before Sam Whittingham went in for their sixth following a line out close to Cleckheaton’s line. Greg Wood converted two of Sandal’s three unanswered second half tries to seal victory.
This was a performance Cleckheaton know cannot be repeated when they play a crucial game against Doncaster Phoenix at Moorend on Saturday week.
A win against Doncaster will give them a welcome nine-point cushion on the relegation zone and will have them right on the heels of ninth place Ilkley.