Old Crossleyans 12 Cleckheaton 14
The boot of Gareth Sweeney was responsible for all of Old Crossleyans’ points as they bagged a losing bonus point from a dour North One East defeat by neighbours Cleckheaton.
Crocs were again shorn of key men with three of the Hammond brothers, Neil Richardson, Leigh Thomas and Ed Cockroft all missing.
That did not help the home side’s cohesion, but Crocs also lacked enterprise as they failed to cross the whitewash in a contest of close quarter rugby.
Sweeney was kicking for the first time, but held his nerve well to boot four penalties while former Halifax fly half Iain Gordon was equally impressive for the visitors, who also scored the only try through another former Ovenden Park man, hooker Steve Worsley.
Sweeney kicked Crocs ahead with a penalty after eight minutes. The original offence had taken place 40 metres from the posts but twice the referee moved it on 10 metres as Cleckheaton continued to question the decision.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Gordon replied in kind after Crocs were caught offside under their own posts. Ryan Hammoned then led a Crocs charge, but the ball was dropped with the line open before Sweeney secured his second success with a kick from wide out for a 6-3 lead.
Again Gordon levelled when Crocs were found guilty of not rolling away, but Sweeney restored the narrow advantage with a close-in penalty.
Cleck looked certain to level when Crocs again fell foul of the referee, but they opted to run the ball and the winger was denied when he stepped into touch on his way to the line.
Gordon did restore parity before Crocs looked to try and establish a gap with a series of attacks which again resulted in the ball being lost.
With half-time looming, Sweeney put some daylight between the sides with his fourth successful kick, the ball going over via the inside of a post.
Gordon fluffed a penalty kick early in the second half, and it looked as though Crocs would benefit but again their luck was out as prop Rory Davis was unable to gather in his own kick through while Sweeney’s similar tactic saw the bounce of the ball evade him.
Cleck broke hard through scrum half Jack Bickerdike, but the home defence did their job, until a long touchfinder to the five metre line put the visitors in a good position.
Crocs tried a short line out but Worsley grabbed the ball and dropped over the line to make it 14-12 in his side’s favour.
Gordon missed another penalty attempt while Crocs were saved when Cleck were penalised for crossing in the act of scoring.
Sweeney was then short with a long penalty bid after which Crocs saw their final hopes of a try disappear when James Wainwright made a good break but Rory Davis was bundled into touch.