Old Brodleians 18
CLECKHEATON coach Dave Harrison, a Twickenham winner with Heath almost 10 years since, is not expecting Brods to be facing his former club in Yorkshire One next season.
Harrison’s men scored two converted tries in the last six minutes of Saturday’s Woodhead derby to clinch a North One East double over their hosts and increase Brods’ fears of the drop.
However, Harrison - who also had a spell in charge of Halifax - believes Brods have enough about them to stay up with Team Northumbria doomed and Old Crossleyans and Gateshead favourites to go down alongside them.
“We bullied Brods in the first game (39-15 in October) and ran over the top of them but they fronted up well this time,” he said.
Those words will come as little consolation to a Hipperholme club which manages to remain competitive in an unforgiving division in spite of continually having as many casualties as a war zone.
Their teenage players continue to step up to the mark in fine fashion but an ever-changing side is never going to play with any fluency and it was sheer hard work and determination which put them in a position to win this game leading 18-14 entering the final quarter.
They were pressing to extend their lead when Adam Standeven - arguably their liveliest player - had a pass picked off by Cleckheaton flying machine Ross Hayden, who went almost the length of the field for a try converted by Iain Gordon.
Brods’ young fullback Danny Wood then hit an upright with a penalty which might have levelled the scores and relieved Cleckheaton swept down the slope twice more late on for a bonus-point win which just about ensures they will be playing in this section next season.
Exasperated home coach Ian Armitage pinpointed the interception try as the game’s key moment.
“When you are losing games desperation creeps in and you try to force matters,” he said.
“Even then, if we had got that penalty and drawn level then perhaps it might have been a different story.
“But hopefully we have still got a couple of wins left in us in our last five games.”
Brods dominated possession and territory with the slope and wind in the first half but still found themselves behind after half an hour.
The only points in that time came in the third minute when Cleckheaton mauled the ball to the Brods 22 line and Gordon’s seemingly aimless overhead punt - an option derided by the visiting supporters - embarrassed the home defence and was pounced on by winger Hayden for a try converted by Gordon.
Brods’ young props Dave Skinner and Jonjo Ward were scrummaging well and makeshift second row pair Lee Scrimshaw and Alex Dawson were prominent as the home side camped in the Cleckheaton 22.
Liam Scott and Scrimshaw made half-breaks but were unable to make a telling pass in front of the posts but generally Cleckheaton’s solid defence was able to cope comfortably with their hosts’ rather laboured attacks.
Brods eventually settled for an easy three points from Wood’s boot on 17 minutes, Gordon’s long-range effort in reply hitting the bar with the ball being juggled by Richard Holborough before being cleared.
Excellent kicks from Louis Butler and Scott put Brods deep in Cleckheaton territory again and the yellow carding of visiting scrum half Matt Piper paved the way for the home side to score 10 points and take a 15-7 interval lead.
Ollie Akroyd, Joe Armitage, Butler and finally Scott perfectly executed a short-side move from a scrum and then Standeven made a try out of nothing, cutting in from the left close to half-way and then regathering his own grubber kick to score 15 metres to the right of the posts. Wood added the first conversion.
Cleckheaton’s experience and close-quarter driving skills were expected to come to the fore after the break and the visitors duly cut the deficit to one point on 50 minutes. From a lineout catch and drive, back rower Richard Piper plunging over five metres to the left of the posts and Gordon converted.
The Cleckheaton stand off inexplicably then tried to run the ball out of his own 22, Cleckheaton were penalised and Wood made it 18-14 with a lowish, straight kick.
Brods received further encouragement when the visitors were reduced to 14 men for a second time, prop Paul Turner being yellow carded, and they went looking for what they might have hoped would be a clinching score.
However, Hayden’s interception changed all that and after Wood’s penalty against the upright, a refreshed Turner returned to score under the posts and Chris Piper then forced his way over following a scrum near the home line. Gordon converted both tries to rub salt into Brods’ wounds.