Cleckheaton RUFC make case for defence to end Malton and Norton’s long home run

Cleckheaton are finishing 2021 with a flourish to keep up hopes that they can still have a run at promotion from the North One East next year.

By Tony Harber
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 8:15 am
Try machine Jack Marshall, who collected his 11th try of the season for Cleckheaton as they won at Malton and Norton.
Try machine Jack Marshall, who collected his 11th try of the season for Cleckheaton as they won at Malton and Norton.

Malton and Norton were the latest to feel the heat against them as their proud long unbeaten record was shattered by a 22-16 result.

In making it four wins from their last five matches Thiu Barnard’s men were becoming the first visiting side to be able to celebrate victory at Malton and Norton’s North Yorkshire ground for almost two years.

The hosts had not lost here since January 2020, but Cleckheaton were cheered on by a good following as they produced one of their best all-round displays of the season.

They may have attacked with more sharpness in some previous matches, but this time the defence took the plaudits, particularly in an intense final quarter.

They fielded a side with two changes from the previous week’s win over Scarborough with Dom Flanagan in for the unavailable Jack Seddon and regular starter Dale Breakwell back from injury to replace his brother Tom, at full-back after Tom had injured his ankle at training on Thursday.

A great tackle by Mike Hayward denied Malton an early score and the visitors counter attacked superbly from their own 22. Breakwell kicked deep down field and winger Jack Marshall showed great pace to get to the ball and open the scoring with the first try – his 11th of the season. Breakwell added the conversion.

Malton hit back with a try of their own as a charge down and a penalty gave them field position from which they were able to drive over from a line-out.

Tempers briefly flared when Breakwell was taken out late and took exception to it. The result was that he was sent-off, to the surprise of the travelling fans, along with the home player to reduce both teams to 14.

Cleck pushed on, however, and stretched their lead as Hayward combined well with Dom Flanaghan to score his tenth try of the season. Dom Brambani took over kicking duties and added an excellent touchline conversion to make it 14-5.

Another score followed when Brambani’s fine kick led to a line-out from which a third try was scored, prop Niall Jackson going over for a rare try after a strong forwards drive.

The hosts were a different side after the break and pushed Cleckheaton back for much of it. But they were met by stubborn resistance.

Richard Piper was shown a yellow card for slowing down play and it was 13 against 14 for 10 minutes. Wave after wave of Malton attacks were repelled, with Andy and Matt Piper both putting in big shots to keep the home side out and Joe Flanagan working tirelessly as the defence scrambled against the numerical advantage.

Malton could not breach Cleckheaton’s line, but did kick two penalties to reduce their arrears to eight points.

Brambani nudged the visitors further ahead again with a penalty on one of the side’s rare incursions to the home half. But their opponents never gave in and finally breached the Cleck line for an unconverted try. With seven minutes to go and only six points behind, they had time to snatch a win.

However, the visitors dug deep, continued to defend well and saw the remainder out.

They did have a late scare when a knock-on allowed the home winger to counter attack. He looked to be in the clear only to be caught by flying winger Marshall, who backed up his fantastic chase with an equally impressive tackle to snuff out the danger.

Soon after relief came when the referee blew for time to give Cleckheaton a hard fought win that could prove vital come the end of the season.

They remain in fifth place with all the teams above them winning, but have opened up a six-point gap on sixth-placed Moortown.

This Saturday sees Cleckheaton looking to avoid complacency as they are back at home for their last league game of 2021, hosting second from bottom Consett, who have only won one game this season. Kick-off at Moorend is 2.15pm.