Defeat leaves Cleckheaton in danger of relegation

Cleckheaton's Luke Pearson tries to break through the Doncaster Phoenix defence during last Saturday's National League Three North fixture. 'Picture: Gerald Christian
Cleckheaton's Luke Pearson tries to break through the Doncaster Phoenix defence during last Saturday's National League Three North fixture. 'Picture: Gerald Christian

Cleckheaton did themselves no favours last Saturday when they fell to an 18-10 defeat at home to National League Three North strugglers Doncaster Phoenix.

Cleckheaton were five points clear of Phoenix before the game and a win would have lifted them close to league safety.

However, this was not to be the case and a series of mistakes and firstly kept Phoenix in the game and then saw the visitors score two tries in the last 10 minutes to take the four points.

Phoenix were offered a lifeline by Cleckheaton and took it with both hands.

Ross Hayden returned to first team action following a serious wrist injury in pre-season and had a positive impact, coming into the line from full-back for a try after just three minutes which he converted.

Phoenix hit back with a penalty from Will Burden to reduce the lead to 7-3 but Cleck appeared in control.

Jack Seddon ramped up his ball carrying statistics and along with Matt Piper in the centre, topped the hit-up charts.

Signs that cracks were appearing came after 30 minutes when a Phoenix player was sin binned but despite having several opportunities, with dangerous line outs, Cleckheaton could not sustain enough pressure to score and they only held a narrow 7-3 lead at the break.

Cleckheaton started the second half brightly but their kicking game was not quite on song and Phoenix were able to return these kicks with interest and put them under pressure.

The visitors eventually worked their way down field and went in for an unconverted try to take the lead.

Hayden restored Cleckheaton’s ascendency with a penalty goal to put his side 10-8 in front.

Cleck then had further clear cut chances to rack up more points but lost scrums against the head, failed to secure their line out ball, or did not move play wide at the right time and failed to take opportunities to increase their lead.

Phoenix absorbed the pressure and hit back at Cleck with superior enthusiasm.

Their desire paid dividends as they again went down field and scored a try to re-take the lead.

Doncaster held a three point advantage with 10 minutes remaining and despite a lack lustre performance from Cleck there was still time for them to clinch victory.

More mistakes and indiscipline made this difficult and Phoenix settled the game with a third try a minute from the end,

The conversion was missed but the score was enough to deny Cleckheaton a losing bonus point.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Cleckheaton, who now find themselves drawn firmly back into a relegation battle.

The team need to find a win and their first opportunity comes on Saturday with a trip to Kendal. Kick off is 2pm and anyone wanting to travel to Cumbria on the players’ coach should meet at the club at 10am.