IN-FORM Cleckheaton are a mix of optimism and realism after another five-point haul consolidated their second place in North One East thanks to a 31-17 win at home to Moortown.

Tries from prop Andy Piper, right winger Jack Marshall, hooker Ben Thrower, No 8 Jack Seddon and centre Ollie Depledge gave them a maximum over fifth-placed Moortown at Moorend.

The visitors replied through tries by prop Tommy Pritchard, No 8 Sherridan Farley and a penalty try but had centres Ged Innes and Tom Moorby sin-binned within three minutes of each other early in the match and had to replace touch judge Mark Shires soon after he dispensed too much advice to referee Chris Binnie (Yorkshire Society).

The latter also handed yellow cards to Cleckheaton twins Andy Piper and Chris Piper but it was too late in the match to affect anything other than the final points margin.

Cleckheaton remain second in the table, six points behind leaders York, but they extended their lead over third-placed Driffield to five points after the latter lost 11-7 at Morley.

Moorenders' coach Thiu Barnard said: "If someone had said to me last April that we would be second going into February, I would not have believed it.

"I am happy that we have got 29 points out of 30, we are confident and our defence was outstanding.

"Before the game I said that I wanted that to go to another level and the one try that they scored in the corner was always going to happen due to pressure - we defended 20 phases before that which takes a lot out of you.

"Our defence has slipped off a bit in the past few weeks but when you can attack like we can then you don't need to defend, but if you want to win a league or go up then your defence has to be very good.

"If we were more clinical we could have scored four or five more tries but I will take five points any day, even though we have little things to fix."

On the debit side, Barnard added: "We never got out of second gear or third gear. We started really well but didn't finish as great.

"Driffield have lost but we have a tough February coming up. We have to go to West Hartlepool (February 1) and Durham City (February 15) and fellow top-three clubs York (February 8) and Driffield (February 29) have to come here but being six points clear gives us a bit of breathing space."

As for the prospect of playing in the fifth tier (North Premier) next season, whether that be by the sole automatic place or by the only play-off place, Barnard admitted: "If we go up we go up and we will try our best.

"The difference between that level and our level is that if they get eight chances they will score six and not just three and we have to do better than that.

"We have next week off but the players have asked for two sessions because we know what is coming up in February.

"Having a week off gives us a chance to get over niggles but the boys still work hard on their weeks off."

On a cold afternoon, Cleckheaton were awarded the first two penalties but, rather than letting fly half Dale Breakwell have a pot at goal, skipper Matthew Piper asked him to kick for the corner, resulting in that first try as Andy Piper was driven over in the second minute.

Moortown then had Innes yellow carded for a shoulder charge in the 10th minute and Moorby sin-binned two minutes later for a tip tackle.

Shires was then replaced as a touch judge, and Marshall capitalised on the visitors being two men short by going over in the right-hand corner in the 15th minute, with Dale Breakwell adding an excellent conversion.

Cleckheaton then switched into Barbarians mode before their defence withstood their first stern test.

The hosts were held up over the line when they got back on the attack but there was no reprieve for Moortown as Thrower threw into a line-out and then attached himself to a maul before diving over for the second try in the 22nd minute.

Dale Breakwell hit the near post with the conversion attempt from the left but the visitors got themselves on the scoreboard in first-half injury time when Pritchard went over in the left-hand corner.

Cleckheaton were attacking as the interval whistle sounded but they were rewarded six minutes into the second half when Seddon finished off a quality attack to secure the four-try bonus point.

Moortown responded with Farley's try in the 53rd minute but with winger Mikey Hayward keeping the visitors honest with his dazzling footwork and Matty Piper being his usual strong presence in centrefield, Depledge went over for Cleckheaton's fifth try in the 68th minute.

Andy (stiff-arm tackle) and Chris Piper (mystery offence) then had their participation cut short by sin-binnings before Binnie tired of Cleckheaton's indiscretions in the red zone and awarded Moortown an injury-time penalty try.

* A bucket collection raised £275 for seven-year-old Skipton rugby player Luke Mortimer, who has had his hands and legs amputated due to meningococcal meningitis.