NORTH 1 EAST
PERCY PARK RFC 27 – 19 CLECKHEATON RUFC
Percy Park welcomed Cleckheaton to Preston Ave for the first home league game of the season hoping to improve on their fortunes of the previous week. Park had been unlucky not to come away from Bradford with a losing bonus point whereas Cleck had started well with a home win against Scarborough. Park welcomed back Toby Davison, Ruairi Meharg, Marc Cook, Andy Dunn and Ethan Wilson to the starting line up and handed a debut to young prop Gus Coningham. Evergreen James Ponton was on the bench for Park along with Mark Barry and Jack Peter.
The home side started well in the bright sunshine and with wind advantage kicked off and retain territorial advantage for the first 7 minutes. Park were awarded a penalty for Cleckheaton pulling down a maul and Ash Smith kicked to the corner to set up a catch and drive. Park drove left and then Ash Smith found wing Ross Young in space on the right and with a cross kick the Park wing took advantage of a cruel bounce that foxed his opposite number retrieving the ball and touching down for the first try of the game. Ash Smith’s kick went across the front of the posts.
Park were soon back on the attack and a loose pass was intercepted by the visitors and play was forced all the way back into the Percy Park half. Park were penalised and both captains were asked to speak to their players. Dale Breakwell took advantage of Park’s slowness in regrouping to defend the penalty and his cross-field kick found wing James Wilson on the left flank to score in the corner to level the points 5-5. Breakwell couldn’t add the extras.
Both sides were guilty of giving away penalties and when Cleckheaton were penalised, Ash Smith turned down the easy 3 points and kicked to the corner. From the line out Park retained possession and spun the ball left playing a free ball as the referee played advantage for another penalty and captain Seb Reece crossed the line to double Park’s lead 10-5 on 20 minutes.
Dale Breakwell missed a difficult drop goal attempt minutes later before Percy park were once again camped in the Cleck half. Referee Williams lost patience after further penalties were conceded and the visitors prop was sent to the bin for slowing down the ball. Cleckheaton sacrificed wing Danny Booth to bring on a prop replacement, and from a scrum Park went in at the corner as Toby Davison touch down for the try. Ash Smith converted to take the score to 17-5.
Cleckheaton pushed play back into the Percy 22 but from a line out the ball was shipped wide after Andy Dunn had charged into the Cleckheaton defence. Park were trying to get the ball wide to speedster Will Robinson on the left wing and a wide pass was grassed before the young Park wing picked up the ball and set off, a couple of side steps, and a dummy found Robinson in space and he put on the afterburners to round the last defended and score a fine try which was converted again by Smith as Park went into the break 24 -5 up and a 4 try bonus point in the bag.
In the second half the red and whites had the wind advantage and 5 minutes in cut the Park lead with a try by Mikey Hayward running a good line to take an inside pass for the try which Breakwell improved to take the score line to 24-12. Cleckheaton weren’t overawed by the Park lead and had a sustained spell in the Park half, and looked to be in for their third try, but for a “you’ve been framed moment”. Breakwell chipped a nice ball through the Park defence and as the ball crossed the line with 2 Cleck players nearest to the ball, one tripped and bundled his team-mate out of the way allowing Ali Blair to touch down for the 22 drop out. The Park crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Cleckheaton did make amends for the butchered try soon after and their man of the match Danny Booth scored with Breakwell converting to make the score-line 24-19 setting up a nail biting last 10 minutes.
Percy Park used their bench and all replacement were on, and it was the home side’s turn to exert pressure, a penalty in front of the posts gave Ash Smith a chance to take the 3 points to extend the lead to 27-19. The visitors now need a score for a losing bonus point and another try would give them 2 bonus points.
Cleck were back in the Park half and after a couple of penalties opted for a scrum a few meters out. The Park scrum was under a bit of pressure and Park were penalised for the back row not being bound. Another penalty, and another scrum. Michael Langlands went off injured and Mark Barry moved to the second row, with Mark Cook back on in the front row Cleckheaton were looking to drive the scrum over the line, but Cookey had other ideas and got the nudge on his opposite number who then infront of the referee, stepped out and drove upwards conceding a penalty to the delight of the Park players. Ash Smith tapped the ball then kicked it dead for the final play of the game and Park had won 27-19.
Next week Park 1st XV travel to Scarborough, with the Lions away to Consett and the Pumas at home to Gateshead III.