Cleckheaton 64, Old Crossleyans 3
Cleckheaton’s grow your own policy continues to bear fruit.
Having ditched their importing policy after their sojourn into the national leagues, which ended in relegation in 2006-07, they are on the cusp of promotion to level five.
A ten-try display against game derby opponents guaranteed the Moorenders at least a play-off berth but, all things being equal, they should clinch the SSE North One East title on Saturday, March 29 at home to Morpeth as they are 13 points ahead with four matches to go.
“We might not be as talented as our national league side but I think we are more unified as a team because a lot of the lads came up through the ranks together,” said Cleckheaton’s president Alan Bentley.
“For example, 12 of them went off after the match on Saturday to catch the ferry from Hull to Amsterdam to celebrate the birthdays of twins Matt and Richard Piper.”
This togetherness sentiment was backed up by prop Andy Piper, who said of the past team: "A lot of the lads used to pick up their wage and then go home."
As for the promotion that is surely going to follow this 20th win in 22 league matches this season, Bentley added: “We know we are going to have strengthen with one or two players for the next campaign but before we resume league rugby we have a Yorkshire Cup quarter-final at Wharfedale next weekend.”
How disruptive the loss of coach Neil Spence was to Old Crossleyans is a matter for conjecture - he fainted at home while getting his gear ready for the match, although his CT scan was later clear - but, under the guidance of director of rugby Howard Cooper, the visitors were soon in the lead.
Centre Chris Vine popped over a fifth-minute penalty but that was their only joy of the half as the hosts ran in five tries.
An excellent pack drive helped skipper Matt Piper over in the ninth minute, mobile lock Alex Dawson following him across the whitewash eight minutes later after good ball retention.
Full back Ross Hayden stretched out to score in the 21st minute, and flanker Ollie Akroyd was on player-coach Rob Afoa Peterson’s shoulder nine minutes later to get the fourth try for the bonus point.
Hayden was over again before half-time after good persistance as Crocs failed to nail Matt Piper in midfield, Hayden landing four conversions, two of them superb efforts from the touchline.
Although Old Crossleyans had more possesssion in the second half, only to be denied by stout defence, Cleckheaton ran in a further five tries, prop Chris Piper starting the ball rolling seconds into the stanza after a deft kick through by Matt Piper.
Tries followed for left winger Martin Woodhead, vocal scrum half Jack Bickerdike, Afoa Peterson, from the cleanest interception you could wish to see, and centre Ollie Depledge.
Hayden landed three more conversions in what was Cleckheaton’s biggest win of the season, beating both the 51-12 home victory over Alnwick in October and the 52-5 drubbing of Sheffield in January, also at Moorend.