Cleckheaton are blown off course at Pocklington
Cleckheaton missed a chance to close on the top three teams in North One East when they lost out to a rapidly improving Pocklington side.
With a number of games postponed it was a chance for the Moorend men to press their promotion claims and they travelled in confident mood after winning their previous two matches in fine style against West Yorkshire rivals Bradford & Bingley and Morley.
But the fluency of those matches was missing and they suffered a 20-7 defeat to opponents who moved to within two places and four points of them in the table.
Cleckheaton remain in fifth place, but know they must correct their inconsistency if they are to aim higher and will be looking for a quick turnaround when at home to Scarborough this Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm).
They went to Pocklington with virtually the same side that mauled Morley with just one change, Tom Breakwell in at full-back with James Wilson missing his first game of the season due to a knee injury.
The windy conditions were always going to play a part and the home team looked to make use of the elements as they played with wind behind in the first half.
They made the early running, although Cleckheaton kept them at bay with some strong tackling and vigorous scrummaging.
It took 20 minutes for the first score to be put on the board with Christian Pollock landing a straight forward penalty goal for Pocklington after the visitors had been caught offside.
Cleckheaton hit back straight from the restart when the home team knocked on and from the resulting scrum an attack was launched.
With all the backs lined up to the left, Richard Piper picked up and went blindside before feeding Tom Hainsworth who was able to crash over the line for his fifth try of the season.
Dale Breakwell added the conversion and with a 7-3 lead against the wind it was looking good for Cleck.
It could have been even better as more opportunities were created, but to the visitors’ frustration the referee’s whistle was heard too much when they were in attacking positions and the score remained the same to half-time, although they did appear to be in control.
That changed after the break as five minutes in Cleckheaton were down to 14 men when Jack Seddon was sin-binned for a rush of blood after his teammates had stolen the ball at a line-out.
They survived the 10 minutes without him, but when Cleck were then shunted back at a scrum, the ball squirted loose for scrum-half David Davison to hack on and as the Pock forwards were driving to the line the ball was killed with the referee awarding a penalty try.
The conversion that followed put the hosts ahead at 10-7 and they were not to lose the lead.
Cleck were pushed back again and although they tried to attack from deep they were guilty of giving up penalties for holding on the ground.
The key moment came in the 70th minute when Dale Breakwell’s kick to the wing meant for Mike Hayward was picked off by winger Jed Jackson who plucked the ball out of the air in front of the clubhouse then, roared on by the home crowd, outpaced the cover and cut inside to the posts on a 70-metre dash to the line. Pollock’s conversion made it 17-7.
Still Cleckheaton continued to battle and an attack towards the left corner looked promising, but when the maul went to ground Pock turned the ball over and cleared. The hosts broke out to make the game safe five minutes from time when Pollock added a further penalty. They then played out time to complete a 20-7 win.
Front rower Niall Jackson was awarded the man of the match for Cleckheaton while Richard Piper had a solid game at number eight and Plunkett, Marsden and Seddon secured plenty of line-out possession. In the backs Dom Brambani and Hainsworth worked well, but the wingers saw little of the ball mainly due to the high winds.
Cleckheaton Kestrels, who are top of the Championship West Merit League, did ensure one of the club’s sides would be successful on the trip to East Yorkshire as they won their friendly game at Pocklington Panthers 26-7.