IN the end the fate of the Regional One North East derby between Cleckheaton and Ilkley at Moorend came down to referee Kristian Garland (Yorkshire Society).

Home coach Matty Piper revealed: “It is a difficult one because we thought that it was playable and they (Ilkley) didn’t and the referee erred on the side of caution.

“It was a 50-50 call to be fair, but we have trained on the pitch twice this week and it came down to the referee’s decision.

“It was the middle of the pitch and the area around the five-metre line that was the concern, and we could have been scrummaging there.”

Feeling that the heavy pitch would have favoured Cleckheaton’s forwards, Piper added: “We are disappointed that it is off, but if you go down the safety route then we cannot really argue.”

The game has been pencilled in for next Saturday, which means that Cleckheaton’s Yorkshire Cup semi-final at Goole, scheduled for next weekend, will have to be re-arranged.

In the Papa John’s Trophy, scheduled for April, Cleckheaton have matches at Penrith, and at home to Pontefract and Old Anselmians.

Cleckheaton lost their first five league matches this season to be rooted to the bottom of the table, and they lost 11 of their first 15.

However, starting on January 27, they have won their last three to climb to 10th of the 12 teams in Regional One North East, and are 12 points ahead of the second relegation place.

Cleck have four league matches left and, with both Doncaster Phoenix and Pontefract, the two sides below them in the table, losing on Saturday, Piper said: “We reckon that we only need one more win to be safe.

“It was not an ideal situation to lose a coach mid-season (Gareth Lewis) after losing one at the end of last season (Thiu Barnard), but it is not down to me that we have got out of this position, it is down to the lads, so massive credit to them.

“We have just simplified a few things but we know how to get the best out of the lads as we have been playing with some of them for 20 years.

“Most of the lads are from Cleck and it is not just down to me and my brother Richard Piper. It has massively been player led that we have turned it around and we are looking at a top-half finish.”

Piper added: “We had a lot of players injured at the start of the season, which hindered us massively, but we have a lot of players back now and when we have a full team out, like we have had for the past few weeks, then we are somewhere near being a top-half team, which is where we want to be.

“Tom Hainsworth has had a hamstring injury and we have got Mikey Hayward back from Pontefract, where he wasn’t enjoying it as much.

“He grew up in Cleckheaton and he has steadied that midfield up, and we also have a few forwards back and now we have a strong 18 out every week.”