Cleckheaton undone by Alnwick’s impressive second half fight back

Cleckheaton produced a terrific first half effort and threatened to end Alnwick's 100 per cent home record before the Northumberland side fought back to earn a flattering 41-26 victory in North One East last Saturday.
Cleckheaton produced a terrific first half effort and threatened to end Alnwick's 100 per cent home record before the Northumberland side fought back to earn a flattering 41-26 victory in North One East last Saturday.

Cleckheaton slipped to a fourth straight defeat in North One East as they went down 41-26 away to Alnwick last Saturday and are in danger of becoming involved in a relegation battle.

It was Cleckheaton’s first of three trips to the north of Newcastle over the next month and they were without unavailable three-quarters Mikey Hayward and Lee Queeley.

Alnwick, the most northerly rugby club playing in the English Union, awaited them and their 100 per cent home record this season made them obvious pre-match favourites.

The versatile Brad Marsden, who had played second and back row the previous two games, switched to the wing and Lewis Beasty joined the bench.

Alnwick went into an early lead with a converted try which started with a break from just inside their own half.

Cleckheaton’s forwards then began to dominate, with coach Thiu Barnard adding sizeable beef to the pack, and Ryan Piercy and Paul Turner adding to the go-forward.

Within five minutes Cleck equalised when captain Matt Piper took a short pass from Jack Bickerdike and pirouetted his way to the line with Mike Swetman adding the difficult conversion.

Cleckheaton continued to press and took the lead following an excellent drive from the pack, which Bickerdike marshalled to the line before scooting in for the try which Swetman again improved as the visitors led 14-7.

Alnwick’s home record was in serious doubt when the back row trio of Joey Carley, Josh White and Jack Seddon made ground, before Ryan Piercy took the ball and made a determined run to the line. Swetman added his third conversion.

In first half injury time, Alnwick pulled a little bit of the advantage back with a penalty as they turned round 21-10 down.

However, Cleckheaton’s seemingly comfortable lead was quickly eroded away as the second half progressed.

Two minutes in, Alnwick stretched Cleckheaton’s defence and full-back James Wilson was at full stretch trying to tackle Alnwick’s speedy outside centre but caught him round the neck and was sin-binned.

Alnwick kicked for touch, spun the ball across field and rounded Cleck’s depleted defence for an unconverted try.

Taking full advantage of their numerical advantage in the back line, Alnwick continued to move the ball wide and added a converted try for a 22-21 lead.

Within three minutes of Cleckheaton being restored to full complement, another sweeping backs move was well executed as Alnwick clocked up 19 unanswered points.

Cleckheaton had worked hard for their half-time lead which had evaporated but good work from the forwards set up field position and the ball was passed to the short side, where Jack Seddon tip-toed down the touchline, to score their fourth try and earn at least one point from the game.

Cleckheaton still had belief of snatching victory but it wasn’t to be and Alnwick’s clinical back line again scythed through the defence for a try from deep.

Alnwick also had the last word with a sixth try from their own half, to end the game with a slightly lopsided victory, which denied the Moorenders chance of a second losing bonus point.

Defeat leaves Cleckheaton seventh in the table with six clubs between themselves and third-bottom Percy Park separated by just five points.

Cleck face a crunch game on Saturday when Dinnington visit Moorend as Barnard’s men target a first win of 2018.