North One East
Percy Park RFC 50 v Cleckheaton RUFC 36
“Anything you can do I can do better”
For the melodic amongst us many will recognize the famous lyric from the hit musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, where the lead character goes ‘head to head’ with her opposite number trying to ‘outdo him’…well that was certainly the case in this furious (often tempestuous) and exciting game of rugby that, for the vast part of the occasion, had each side trying to surpass the other. If Park scored Cleckheaton went one better. If ‘Cleck’ went ahead, Park scored twice just to show they ‘could do anything better than you’. At the final whistle one of the faithful mentioned with a sigh of relief, a wry grin and a shake of the head ‘Never in doubt’…..If only….Cleckheaton had ‘all to play for’ in their fight against relegation and Percy Park didn’t want to be beaten on their final home game of the season. It made for a cracker and a score line that probably flattered Park. Next week the ‘black and whites’ move on to Huddersfield YMCA having already secured 5th place in the league, whilst Cleckheaton need a minimum of two points at home to Malton and Norton. For the Yorkshire side it’s a tense, very tense time. They desperately wanted that win at Preston Avenue to settle racing hearts and for a moment they looked as if they might achieve it; only for a diving Michael Grove to dab down a Caulfield kick over the line to break ‘West Riding’ hearts. It was thrilling stuff…so how did it all pan out?
The stadium of dreams was full of former-players, sponsors and supporters enjoying some fine fare, lording it over the current 1st XV in their honest held belief that they were better (common theme here) players than their younger counterparts. Throw in a Veterans game against Cleckheaton Third XV with many of those ‘better players’ willing and trying to remember former glories or insisting they really were match fit (how long was it Mr Scott….15 minutes or just 10?) and you had pre game cocktail of good humour and well-being. An atmosphere that didn’t abate, despite Cleckheaton taking an early lead with a fine try exploiting some broken play rugby and poor defence from Percy Park as they fell off the first up tackle.
Parity was quickly restored as Austin Phillips bundled himself over. From the restart Cleckheaton were caught offside. With Ash Smith kicking to the corner, the resulting lineout was taken cleanly. With ball to the floor, Park rolled to their left, before putting Phillips in between the posts. With Smith converting the score stood at ‘7 a piece’ with only 7 minutes played. The game pattern was set and the tries kept coming.
A fine run and pass from Andrew Walker got the ‘Park’ rolling into the Cleck 22. A surging run from Captain Jonny Dubois had the home side on the line. The Cleckheaton defence was furious. Yet numbers counted. Cleck were dragged in and scrum half Rory Meharg put Park wide with Johnny Dubois collecting and diving over the line to score a converted try. 14-7.
‘Anything you can do I can do better’. From the restart Park failed to collect and Cleckheaton recycled the ball to their fly half who put in a fine cross kick to his right wing. With the ball bouncing in space full back Mattie Boustead raced across. A dive from the Cleck wing saw him slide onto the ball taking Boustead’s feet away. With no tackle made the winger returned to his feet to score in the corner. Cleck were running the ball and using a very offensive minded pack to good effect. Shortly after they were back on the scoreboard. Park failed to roll away in an attempt to slow the paly. The resulting penalty kick was dispatched to put Cleckheaton in the lead at 14 points to 15.
Percy Park restored the lead with a penalty of their own before a yellow card to Michael Langlands got in the way. As the teams were trading points they decided to trade in other ways as well. A few off the ball ‘bits and pieces’ came to the fore as Park’s second row got caught!
The yellow cost Park a try and a conversion. Cleckheaton’s front row were asserting themselves in the scrum and strong running through the 12 and 13 channel was causing real problems. Park needed to regroup and shore up. First up tackles needed to be made and kept. At the half it was over to Coach Lawrence Patton to find the answers. 17-22 at the turn.
With Josh Hedley on and Mark Barry returning to the front row, Park elected to keep the ball, winding the time penalty away. A ‘heavy’ tackle on Captain Dubois gave Park a penalty and the opportunity to play ‘keep ball’ in the Cleck half. A long boot failed to find touch. Fortunately Cleck kicked it back and Park went wide. A super miss pass put Mattie Boustead in the clear. Fleet of foot and a side step left all in his wake to score a fine try. Conversion made 24-22.
Another try quickly followed. This time Cleck marked the score on the board. Park were penalised just outside their 22. I’m not sure why but possession was given and Cleckheaton eventually moved the ball to that 12/13 channel breaking the tackle and over for the score. Try converted. The away teams scrum half was beginning to have a very positive say in how his team were playing.
Now it was Park’s turn. As the game see sawed, tempers flared, and one or two more ‘off the ball’ incidents crept in. It was a close contest and no quarter was being given. As Cleckheaton kicked the ball away at the back of the ruck, Rory Meharg, in front of the referee tapped and went parting the unprepared visitors defence. With Ash Smith to his right, a ‘pop pass’ saw the fly half clear and in for the score. 31-29; It was becoming a game of ‘table tennis’.
A forward pass and a high tackle gave Park terriority and importantly a line out on the ‘5’.Standing ‘too tall’ a quick throw and offload saw Marc Cook punch a hole to score. A super conversion from Ash Smith gave Park some daylight at 38-29. But it was still close and could go either way.
Park were playing well and attacking the ruck area, making ground on the sides. With Howard Stock making a welcome return to the wing, Park probed and stretched. Ash Smith’s ‘broken play’ running was devastating. The visitors showed signs that they were beginning to struggle and a yellow card followed by a diving Michael Grove score gained maximum punishment.
A mix up in the centre left the ball on the floor. An obvious knock on but Charlie Greswold continued to play kicking and then chasing the ball deep into the Cleck 22. Well supported, the ball was thrown to wing Michael Grove who dived for the line with some style to ensure the covering defence could not stop him. Conversion made 45-29 the score. Daylight could be seen and a relieved faithful started with their quips with ‘Never in Doubt’ being the saying of the day. Albeit rather premature.
Cleckheaton hit back. They needed to. They needed points and they went for it. A converted try caused consternation, a yellow card to Seb Reece and missed penalties had the faithfuls eyes rolling upward to the skies. It was tense stuff.
Percy Park had to ‘put this one to bed’ and as it happened they did so with some aplomb. From behind his goal line, Ethan Clarke twisting and turning scampered to the 22. Jonny Dubois was on hand to feed the ball to Meharg who flew a pass out to Ash Smith. In broken play Smith caused further havoc before deftly giving an ‘out the back door’ pass to Leo Caulfield. Caulfield against all instinct (not!!) kicked the ball forward. The ball rolling toward and over the try line. Now it was a straight race between the covering full back and Michael Grove. As the ball rolled agonisingly toward the touch line Grove dived once more. In play and feet well in the air Michael Grove touched the ball down. A great effort and a great score with no need of any TMO. Conversion missed. Cleckheaton hearts broken in valiant defeat. Final score 50 points to 36.
Who said it was ‘Never in Doubt?’ as we all know ‘It’s never over until….somebody sings…..
Our Lions had an imperious victory against Novos by 81 points to 17 in the County Plate. Manager Tim Walker believes his team are ending the season at the gallop...one final hurdle this Saturday against Blaydon. Should be a belter….if you can’t make Huddersfield be sure not to miss this one.
The Vets also beat a travelling Cleckheaton side 34-17 to ensure we had a ‘cracking day at the Park’.