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Cleck Triumph in Rescheduled Revenge Clash

FT Result: Cleckheaton 29 - Ilkley 23


The Moorenders finally avenged their narrow, last kick of the game defeat at Stacks Field back in November in an entertaining match, played a week later than scheduled, thanks to nature’s ongoing perversity.


Fired up like a pizza oven, Cleck started like at breakneck speed, their big men determined to smash their way through any Ilkley resistance, stout as that resistance was. The visitors went 19-0 down before their ship steadied and normal service resumed.


The revised date for the fixture meant that Ilkley were missing Joe Lowes, Alex Powell and Ben Magee, with Ben Walker joining the injury list. This gave opportunities for colts Ollie Dennis and Rory Gazeley to feature in the squad, both young players acquitting themselves well. To balanced things up, veteran J-H Johnson started at full-back.


The first quarter of the game saw the Dalesmen on the back foot and Cleck kept the scoreboard ticking over with some rumbustious play. Their first score came following their first scrum, centre Tom Hainsworth barging his way over, Dale Breakwell adding the conversion,


Ilkley’s first visit to the opposition half, courtesy of a Morgan penalty, came to naught as the line out was lost. The Cleck pack then ground its way upfield and Ilkley were forced into conceding a penalty. This was taken quickly and flanker Brad Marsden crashed over for Cleck’s second, not converted on 15 minutes.


Cleck’s power play continued and at their next scrum, skipper Rich Piper picked up and went blind where the Ilkley cover looked sparse. A two-man overlap gave winger Jack Marshall all the time in the world to touch down, giving Breakwell an easy pot to make it 19-0.


Having seen relatively little of the ball thus far, Ilkley won some possession and more importantly, kept it, putting some good moves together. Battling their way to 5m out, Cleck held the ball up and from the resulting scrum, cleared to 20m out. 


Ilkley won the line and with some smart play by half-backs Archie Elgood and Ed Brown, Jordan Cummins came off his left wing to take a popped pass and go under the posts. Morgan made it 19-7 


Unfortunately for the Dalesmen, Cleck came straight back. Ilkley’s throw in at the line was not straight and from a very solid scrum, right wing Sam Wormesley’s blistering run ended with an inside pass to the supporting Dom Brambani to score. Breakwell restored his side’s lead to 19 points.  


With the bonus point secure, Cleck seemed to relax a little and Ilkley took full advantage, dominating what remained of the half.


Battering away at the Cleck line, the home side defence conceded three successive penalties, the last one also earning a yellow for Tom Breakwell. Ilkley took full advantage and after some great handling in the backs, J-H Johnson almost scored before he was flattened by the covering defence two metres out. 


Fortunately, the ball went backwards in the tackle and Harry Harrison was on hand to scoop up and score. Morgan’s kick on half-time made it 26-14 but the unfortunate Johnson had popped his shoulder and had to leave the field.


Ilkley withstood early Cleck pressure as the second half got under way and slowly gained the ascendency as their hosts tired and disciplined relaxed. A high tackle gave Morgan the chance to reduce the arrears, duly taken.


Harrison almost got his second, but Ilkley had to settle for another Morgan penalty to make it 26-20 with 25 minutes to play. 


Cleck were visibly rattled as Ilkley edged nearer to catching them up, but on a rare visit to the Ilkley half they won a scrum. Ilkley were adjudged to have stood up in the set-piece and were penalised accordingly. Up stepped Breakwell to restore the 9 point lead.


Morgan kicked his side back into the opposition 22 and in desperation now, Cleck gave away another penalty which Morgan despatched. 29-23 now with under ten minutes to play. 


Out came the proverbial kitchen sink to chuck at Cleck’s resolute but tiring defence. Only a desperate tap-tackle prevented another Harrison try and when Cleck were penalised 40m out, they unwisely kicked the ball away and the penalty was advanced to just 30m. Morgan’s kick slid by the left upright though,


Cleck were down to 14 men again as Ben Thrower saw yellow for a head on head tackle. Another chance for Morgan, but the kick was short.


Back came the Dalesmen to batter away at the Cleck defence, the home side hanging on by their fingernails. Ilkley held on to a tackle 10m out to allow Cleck to clear, but back they came to earn a must-win line 20m out.


Alas, it was not to be and with the line lost, a grateful Breakwell boot smashed the ball into Heckmondwike  to end a thrilling match.


A losing bonus point was scant reward to such a stirring come-back after seemingly being dead and buried after 20 minutes, but Ilkley have the opportunity next week to cement their occupancy of this league with a win over struggling Doncaster Phoenix.


Having said that, playing against sides fighting for survival is never an easy call, so the Dalesmen will have to be on top form before their home crowd to get the result they want.


Sean Crannigan

11.3.24

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