North 1 East
Cleckheaton 43 – 5 Percy Park
Thoughts of a rare away win were given a dent even before Saturday when no fewer than 5 changes to the side that played so well against Scarborough the previous Saturday were announced. This is no disrespect to the lads who stepped into the breach to travel away to Moorend and represent Percy Park.
With Ash Smith and Ali Blair not available and 3 second rows in Josh Hedley, Austin Phillips and Karl Thompson out of the picture, Park had to call up Eddie Saint, Steven Dryden, Travis Boward and Kieran Sutherland with 2 of the 4 making their 1stXV debuts. Will Haskins also returned to the side but started on the bench.
The game kicked off at 3pm due to the Cleck Christmas lunch and with less than 3 minutes on the clock the home side were on the score sheet from a catch and drive from a line out after Park were penalised and Dale Breakwell kicked to the corner. Cleckheaton had recently signed 2 disaffected West Leeds players in Breakwell and Danny Booth and both have made an immediate impact of their fortunes.
Fly half Breakwell continued where he left off last week with a fine kicking display and converted the try in the corner to give his side a 7 – 0 lead even before many of the lunch time revellers had made their way to their seats in the stand.
Squally showers and a blustery wind didn’t make handling easy, and for the next 15 minutes Park held out the hosts. Park had a chance to go level in similar fashion to Cleck as they drove a maul 25 metres towards the line before the maul was collapsed and surprisingly the offending player was not shown a yellow card.
Cleckheaton weathered the brief storm and hit back with a second converted try on 20 minutes.
Mark Barry who in previous weeks had come on from the Park replacements bench was having a good game taking several crash balls into the heart of the opponents mid field, but with both centres weighing in at more than their front row counterparts this tactic wasn’t working, and then just when he thought he had shaken off thoughts of returning to prop, Michael Birkett was substituted and Barry resumed his spot at loose-head.
Breakwell kept the electronic scoreboard ticking over with a penalty and Cleck could have gone further ahead butchering a nailed on try when Danny Booth was tackled just short of the line with a try saving tackle from one of the Park back 3 (it was too dark to pick out who!).
Cleckheaton scored their 3rdtry just before half time when a searing break by Sneddon saw him stopped inches short of the line, but his popped pass found Josh Plunkett in support to dive over for the score to lead 24 – 0 after the formality of the conversion. Apart from the collapsed maul and a superb break by Kieran Sutherland being brought back for crossing with no defending players anywhere near, there were few highlights in the Park first half performance.
With the slope advantage in the second half, Percy Park needed to hit back early if they were going to come away from West Yorkshire with any points. Will Haskins came on at scrum half and made an immediate impact scoring in the corner for Park after a series of drives at the line by the forwards. Michael Grove couldn’t emulate the Cleck kicker and the try from an acute angle remained unconverted.
With 2 back row forwards in the Park boiler room, the scrum which last week had dominated Scarborough, began to creak, and lively number 8 Jack Seddon finished off a push over try from the home side to give them their bonus point on 68 minutes. Breakwell kicked the easy conversion for 31-5.
Park then pressed the self-destruct button as debutant Boward was shown a red card with Park camped on the Cleckheaton try line. There was some dispute as to the sending off, no doubt the referees report will show his reason for dispatching the Park backrower. An intercepted pass, not the first of the day was gratefully accepted and Booth linked with Hayward to score to give the hosts the win 43-5.
At the half-way point in the season Park remain in 6thplace but only 3 points above West Leeds who are currently in the bottom third place relegation spot. Park so far are undefeated in the league at home but haven’t won a single game away from home. Next week Percy Park entertain Morpeth. Please note the kick off is at 3pm to accommodate the sell-out Christmas lunch.