Cleckheaton suffer surprise loss on trip to lowly West Hartlepool
Cleckheaton suffered last minute agony as they were beaten 20-19 away to North One East strugglers West Hartlepool, which brought an end to their seven match winning run.
Cleckheaton made the trek to face West Hartlepool without Niall Jackson and Tom Austin, while Brad Marsden was also unavailable.
Damian Pearson who re-signed from Bradford Salem went into the second row with Tom Lillycrop and Gus Milborne at flanker, Chris Piper was in at prop alongside Ben Thrower and Andy Piper.
Wests played with the wind in the first half and made a mess of the kick off, the ball rolling into touch in goal and from the scrum on half way, Cleckheaton applied early pressure.
Ben Thrower made some strong runs up the middle of the field as did his front row partners and in the opening 20 minutes, Cleckheaton were in the ascendancy without troubling the scoreboard.
Lillycrop, Josh Plunkett and Milborne all carried the ball well and managed to get it out wide, for the backs to make more ground.
Olly Depledge made some terrific outside breaks and Matt Piper took the ball forward with his usual style.
The first score came on 35 minutes, when Jack Seddon got on the end of Depledge’s pass to race some 30 metres to score in the corner and Dale Breakwell added the extras from the difficult angle.
Lillycrop was sin-binned on 39 minutes and from the resultant penalty Zac Southern kicked a 25 metre goal, which reduced the half-time arrears to 7-3.
Andy Piper was struggling with a rib injury and had to be replaced by Archie Rika-Rayne, and Joey Carley came on for Damien Pearson.
While still down to 14 men, Mikey Hayward squeezed over the line for his 15th try of the season but the conversion was missed and Cleck led 12-3.
A period of pressure near the Cleckheaton line, resulted in second row James Borthwick crossing for a 49th minute try, converted by Southern to reduce the arrears to 12-10.
Cleckheaton regained the upper hand and after the forwards had set the platform, Hayward popped up in midfield to score between the posts, with Breakwell adding the goal as Cleck moved nine points ahead.
Lillycrop was lucky to remain on the field after a no arms tackle on Hilditch in the 69th minute, with the referee playing advantage and replacement Alex Barker crossed for a try but Southern missed the conversion.
Cleckheaton should have scored a fourth try on 72 minutes but the ball was knocked forward with the try line in sight.
With time running out, Wests flanker Adam Brown crossed for a fine try, Southern missed the conversion but the home side had edged in front.
There was time for a restart and Cleckheaton were unlucky not to get a potential game winning penalty kick after a Wests player failed to release the ball and despite the protests, the ball crossed the touchline to end the game.
This was only Wests fourth win of the season and the joy on their faces said it all.
Cleck need to regroup after a first defeat in seven games when table topping York visit Moorend on Saturday (ko 2.15pm).