North One East
Percy Park RFC 10- Cleckheaton 14
Better late than never as last minute Park gain valuable point.
As game time approached dark and ragged clouds threatened rain…come kick off time those dull skies produced a persistent light rain that turned the Preston Avenue pitch into a strength sapping quagmire that would not and could not produce any running rugby. So it was down to the forwards and defensive systems to slug it out; the ‘more likely winner’ being the team that produced the fewer handling errors. With Park needing to ‘get something from this game’ and preferring a harder pitch the conditions were not welcomed, yet they stuck at their task against a very capable Cleckheaton side and managed to fashion that all important point in almost the last minute of the game. It wasn’t pretty and at the end of the contest both teams were so plastered in mud you really couldn’t tell ‘who was who’ but that point was earned and you never know with three games to go how valuable it might prove to be.
Park started the better of the two sides with Sean Williamson ‘leading the charge’ deep into the Cleckheaton half. And it was here that Park remained for the best part of 20 minutes without being able to generate a score. The hits and the tackles were hard and no quarter given. When ‘Cleck’ were handed the ball they cleared deep into the Park half forcing ‘the black and whites’ to come back at them.
Having absorbed the storm Cleckheaton started to play some great tight rugby that demonstrated why they were challenging in the top half of the league. Picking some ‘hard straight lines’ they asked a lot of the Park defence and when the ball was held in the ruck area a passage of ‘pick and goes’ had Park on the back foot. The Cleckheaton scrum half was lively, throwing short sharp passes moving his team forward. You could sense that a score was coming and so it proved to be when Park ran out of defensive numbers to allow a ‘Cleck’ player to skip through and score. With the try converted Park were behind.
As the ‘arm wrestle’ continued the Park backs tried turning their opponents by chipping over the defensive wall and running onto the ball. As the pitch was ‘glue’ the ball landed stationary and Cleck were able to gain possession and clear. As the weather deteriorated ‘Knock ons’ and penalties for being offside came thick and fast. Park were guilty of ‘indecision’ in their 22, causing all sorts of problems, fortunately player coach Lome Fa’atau was on hand to clear up and steady the ship.
As the half drew to a close Cleckheaton were guilty of an accidental high tackle within kicking distance of their posts. Michael Grove stepped up and took the three points on offer. At the turn Percy Park 3… Cleckheaton 7. All to play for.
Percy Park do not seem to start second periods very well and as a consequence it was all ‘Cleck’. The Park team had to defend extremely well to keep them out. Each player sticking to his task even on their own try line preventing Cleckheaton from gaining a score. Park were managing to clear but in reality were going nowhere. With Cleckheaton ‘knocking on’ over the line Park were living dangerously. Several breaks by Sean Williamson and Austin Phillips saw Park in Cleckheaton’s half yet a handling error or a kick away handed the ball back to the opposition.
As a supporter you wondered for how long could Park hold out and when Cleck were ‘held up’ over the try line the tension mounted. The Park faithful knew we couldn’t let Cleckheaton get more than a score away from us. Then it happened; a great line from a Cleck forward saw the player bounce off an attempted tackle and trundle over the line. With the try converted the Yorkshire side were 11 points to the good. With the score at 14 points to 3 the rugby support out there knew Park needed to respond to ‘get at least something from the game’.
In some games ‘pendulums can swing’ and with Cleck scoring the ‘black and whites’ upped their game with Phil Morse kicking to the line and into the corners. A few errors allowed Cleck to enter the Park half and despite one heart wrenching moment when Park attempted a long pass in their 22 which was almost intercepted by a high defensive line…and I might add had one of the Park ‘WAMS’ (Wives and Mothers) leaning against the clubhouse wall decrying ‘Why do I go through this torture every Saturday’….Park entered their best period of the game.
With the Cleckheaton line out starting to creak Percy Park and fly half Richard Chadwick were able to gain valuable terrority. Supported by Joe Wafer, Marc Cook and Jake Smith holes were being found in the Yorkshire clubs defence. With Michael Langlands running good lines Park were able to get the ball to the middle stretching the Cleckheaton rear-guard. And as a consequence Cleckheaton began to offend. With desperate defence you will find players coming in from the side. With Park chasing the score, they needed more than 3 points to get that ‘something from the game’. Penalty kick to the corner. With lineout secure the ball was into the middle. Another penalty, quickly followed by another. With the referee losing patience a yellow card was given. Cleckheaton down to 14. Agonisingly Park seemed unable to cross the line and with time running out it was anxiety time on the terraces…the stress could be felt…then Phil Morse came charging onto a Jimmy Baldwin pass to crash over that line to score and bring Park back within one score of their opponents. And into the domain of the bonus point. With the last kick of the game being the conversion Park had ‘gone to the wire’ yet they had got something out of a game other league opponents had thought and some had wished they could not get. As with Driffield away those last minute bonus points could prove more than valuable come the end of the season.
Hold tight it’s still all to play for !!!