Cleckheaton 45 Morpeth 0
Maybe not wanting to tempt fate, despite being so far ahead in the table, Cleckheaton have been saying little about life next season in National League Three North.
However, they can finally go public after clinching the SSE North One East championship in a seven-try romp over relegation-threatened Morpeth.
Cleckheaton’s head coach Ian Armitage, who stepped up from assistant coach last season when they came third, explained his side’s strategy.
He said: “We kept the team together and added Rob Afoa Peterson and Alex Dawson, and Michael Piper played well at ten too.
“The lads have really knuckled down, we had a good pre-season and they kept themselves really fit.”
As for next season’s challenge of facing derbies against the likes of Morley and Sandal – and hopefully Bradford & Bingley and Huddersfield YMCA too depending on results – Armitage said: “We feel that our forwards will be okay but we might have to strengthen in the backs.
“All but one of this year’s squad should be available, as long as somebody doesn’t offer them a load of money. The only one who isn’t is Ollie Depledge, who is going travelling.”
Cleckheaton skipper Richard Piper confessed that the pre-match period was passing very slowly but he felt a lot happier at half-time when Cleckheaton led 24-0 following tries by lock Dawson, after quick thinking by Michael Piper, centre James Wilson and left winger Martin Woodhead, both after good work by right winger James Marshall, and full back Ross Hayden, who added two conversions.
With the four-try bonus point in the bag, which made them champions barring a miraculous sequence of results, the hosts set about trying to boost Hayden’s seasonal points tally in the second half.
Starting the match on 282 points, he had already added nine with a try and those two conversions in the first half, and he easily passed the landmark of 300 in the second half.
Flanker Ollie Akroyd and then skipper Matt Piper gave him try-scoring passes when they could have crossed themselves against spirited opponents.
He not only converted that brace but also improved the Chris Ashton-like Splash try near the end from Michael Piper to take his match tally to 25 and his campaign total to 307.
Although there are two league matches left, no-one else has a chance of displacing Hayden at the top of the individual points pile for the division as Cleckheaton look to finish a memorable season in the right manner.