Woodhead stars in fine Cleck win

Rugby. Cleckheaton Kestrels v Northumbria. Craig Blackburn with the ball. (d28031150)
Rugby. Cleckheaton Kestrels v Northumbria. Craig Blackburn with the ball. (d28031150)

Pontefract 18

Cleckheaton 36

Cleckheaton continued their late surge up the North One East table with a six-try performance against dogged and always competitive opponents.

Ultimately the visitors were more decisive in the backs where winger Martin Woodhead scored four second half tries to secure five more points and overtake Wheatley Hills to move into third place.

Pontefract took the lead with a try in the fifth minute as No8 and player-coach Chris Planchant made a telling 50-metre break and from the ensuing ruck hooker Andy Smith crossed for an unconverted try.

It was the necessary wake-up call for Cleckheaton and from a midfield break by Peter Murphy, Ross Hayden sprinted over for his 21st try of the season which was converted by Iain Gordon.

Both sets of forwards showed determination and aggression and territory was even as Andy Dean put Pontefract into the lead with a penalty.

Skipper Paul Turner was yellow carded for not rolling away at the ruck, but Iain Gordon regained the lead with a penalty.

On the stroke of half-time Pontefract once more took the lead when their best player Planchant drove over for a try which was converted by Dean.

Cleckheaton were not finished and within a minute full-back Jonathon Marshall, in fine form of late, finished off a good move with another try which was unconverted. Three points separated the sides at the break.

The reality was rather different. With Cleckheaton becoming more vocal and tighter in defence, coupled with a much more ambitious and expansive approach to attack. Opportunities were created and hard-working winger Martin Woodhead grabbed the headlines with four tries.

First young lock Matt Beasty drove well, Turner continued the forward surge, bursting through two tacklers and releasing an offload for the willing Woodhead to gallop the remaining 30 yards.

Next Cleck executed a training move, switching the ball wide. With the defence in disarray, centre Murphy executed a crossfield kick for Woodhead to superbly touch down under pressure.

The young winger’s hat-trick came from some solid forward play with Andy Piper leading the way. The decisive break then came from Marshall, now at outside centre due to the loss of Matt Piper with a shoulder injury. He rounded two defenders before a one handed offload again found Woodhead still with work to do but he powered over and improved the angle.

Cleckheaton could have been forgiven for shutting up shop after being reduced to 14 men with a second yellow for Turner, making it a red. However saving the best for last, Woodhead rounded off a fine display when he seized on a loose ball on Pontefract’s 10 metre line and raced away, stood the full-back up cutting inside. Two of the second half tries were converted by Gordon.

Cleckheaton had once more taken the initiative with a team effort and great enterprise. Pontefract’s only reply in the second half was a Dean penalty as the visitors ran out convincing winners.