Pennine League Division Two Central: Birkenshaw Bluedogs 18 Clayton 26

CLAYTON survived a late Birkenshaw Bluedogs fightback to run out worthy 26-18 winners in their Pennine League Division Two Central derby at East Bierley.

Both sides were guilty of numerous early handling errors before Clayton full back Karl Robinson joined the line to change the point of attack and sprinted to the whitewash, leaving stand-off Jack Bowman with an easy conversion.

The Bluedogs quickly restored parity when hooker Matt Honeysett produced the oldest trick in the book by taking a quick tap and run penalty to burrow his way over the chalk, allowing scrum half Jarrod Toulson to slot the extras.

Clayton suffered another blow when their lively half-back Devon Gurney was led off injured after a sparkling 60-metre dash.

A clever side-step from Bowman then carved open the home rearguard to see him scamper in with acres to spare, and centre Gavin Wilkinson ensured full reward before the claret and golds' fortunes rose once more when packman James Rhodes powered his way to the side of the uprights, with Wilkinson again on target for a 18-6 half-time lead.

Birkenshaw's prospects looked bleak when centre Karl Spring used his wingman as a foil to cross on the restart, and they had to scamper in defence to prevent Clayton loose forward Matt Baldwin from scoring after his 80-metre interception.

A spirited spell was richly rewarded when try-poacher supremo Honeysett spotted a gap to force his way over to complete his brace, and the hooker's stock was further enhanced when he hoisted a huge up and under to pave the way for second-row forward Luke Hudson to hack on and win the race to the line.

Toulson added both extras to close the gap to 22-18 and, with cool heads now the order of the day, Birky full back Danny Howard and Clayton packman Rhodes lost the plot and were sent to the sin bin for dissent.

Any thoughts of a home smash and grab were dispelled, however, with three minutes to go when back-rower Sam Wainwright tore onto an offload to run over two defenders en route for the last touchdown of an absorbing encounter that had a large crowd on their toes throughout.