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Line-out strength is crucial for Cleckheaton
Middlesbrough 10 Cleckheaton 17
This match can hardly be described as a classic but, in slippery and cold conditions, both sides tried to entertain.
Cleckheaton deserved the victory because they made fewer errors than the home side and were dominant in the line-out, where Oliver Akroyd was once more very conspicuous.
Boro opened the scoring when full back Jack Bircham kicked a penalty from 20 metres.
Both sides were guilty of basic handling errors and it was no surprise that, with only ten minutes gone, the opposing packs decided to warm their hands in a short bout of wrestling.
The resultant yellow card for Cleckheaton prop Paul Turner calmed things down.
The error-strewn half continued, with only good tactical kicking from Cleckheaton’s Iain Gordon and the visitors’ almost total dominance of the line-outs raising the game above the mediocre.
The first period of consistent pressure in the second half resulted in Cleckheaton lock Danny Nolan driving his big frame through the Boro defence for a try, which was converted by Gordon.
The hosts came back strongly as scrum half Peter Whittaker darted over for his side’s first try, Simon Moore converting.
Gordon levelled matters with a penalty and, as the game entered the last quarter, the Cleckheaton pack once more raised their intensity.
The Boro defence initially held the powerful driving play of the visitors’ eight but, inevitably, the prolific try-scoring machine Richard Piper latched on to a terrific rolling maul to touch down. Gordon completed an impressive conversion.
Despite big efforts from the battling Boro side Cleckheaton held out and were good value for the confidence boosting victory as they look forward to a series of matches against lower ranking opponents in the coming weeks, interspersed with a Yorkshire Cup tie against National Three North undefeated leaders Harrogate.