Ross Hayden the hero as Cleckheaton turn on style

Cleckheaton 45 Middlesbrough 10

Cleckheaton’s excellent season continued with a seven-try bonanza and top-drawer performance from full back Ross Hayden.

In stark contrast to previous weeks, the home side were slow out of the blocks. Boro took advantage with a try from winger Conner Foley, converted by Matthew Todd. Cleckheaton responded with a clever try from winger Craig Blackburn following a cross-field kick from Michael Piper.

Hayden missed the conversion from wide out but was more accurate with his next kick after the free-scoring James Wilson, the newly installed centre, finished off an excellent passage of play involving backs and forwards.

The visitors were still in the game when Matthew Todd kicked a penalty and the game was finely-balanced at the break.

The big crowd, swelled by 150 pre-match diners, were rewarded for their support with a second-half display from the hosts which few sides at this level could have coped with.

Matt Piper cut inside to find Hayden, who in turn sprinted clear to score his first try of the game which he converted.

With experienced front row forwards Paul Turner and Andy Piper entering the fray at the break, the pack showed more urgency and control. Turner drove over for the bonus-point try before the highlight came on the hour-mark.

Hayden carried the ball into the Boro 22 and, though there seemed little opportunity, the league’s leading points scorer defied logic by side-stepping his way to the line, leaving half the Boro side in his wake.

Hayden converted his own try and this was followed by another fine individual effort from evergreen former captain Olly Akroyd, who showed he still has a fine turn of pace in outsprinting the defence.

Hayden was unsuccessful with the conversion but was on the mark again when he added the extras to Wilson’s second try following a great kick through from Martin Woodhead.

This was the most complete second-half performance of the season from Cleckheaton and, on this showing, it will take a good side to knock them off the top spot as the season reaches the halfway stage.

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