Cleckheaton 14 Huddersfield RU 22
Yorkshire Cup, first round
WHATEVER the competition, and no matter how it is achieved, a victory should always be savoured.
And after a run of six successive League defeats, this win over neighbours Cleckheaton will certainly have lifted Huddersfield spirits – even though most of the first team squad missed it!
The County Cup is increasingly seen as an opportunity to give fringe players and second teamers the chance to impress their own coaching staff, and this first round tie was no exception with both sides blooding some of their up and coming prospects.
Indeed, Huddersfield started the match with only eight of their frontline regulars, and finished it with even fewer as coach Mark Sowerby continued to ring the changes in a stop-start second half, played in driving rain.
The game started promisingly enough with left winger Adam Sutcliffe crossing in the corner after just three minutes, following a good break from South African centre Donovan Van Vuuren who linked well with full-back Tom Owen, who in turn gave Sutcliffe the try-scoring pass.
Cleckheaton were quick to respond, however, and after gaining some momentum from a rolling maul, flanker Tom Clough got the touchdown to which Ross Hayden added the conversion to put the home side ahead 7-5.
But gradually Huddersfield began to exert their authority on the game and after spurning a penalty shot at goal, the visitors opted for a five-metre scrum from where young prop Alex Battye forced his way over the line for his side’s second try, this time Chris Johnson adding the extras.
He did miss a penalty attempt two minutes later, but it mattered not as Huddersfield scored the best try of the game on 25 minutes, when Van Vuuren intercepted a pass just inside the Cleckheaton, half and sprinted clear until halted by the full-back, but he looked inside to see Mark Whitehead on his shoulder in support, and the skipper had the easiest of run-ins.
Johnson again converted and added a penalty on the stroke of half-time to take his side clear 22-7 at the break which could have been even more had the hard-working Gareth Lewis been able to ground the ball over the line after a good break from lively scrum half Joel Hinchliffe.
Unfortunately the second half was a tad grim as a string of substitutions disrupted any continuity Huddersfield had built up in the first period, while Cleckheaton seemed pretty clueless and content mainly to thwart the visitors by killing the ball.
Johnson, Hinchliffe, Adam Ryder and Van Vuuren all made way for subs early in the second half, one of which was the welcome return of winger-centre Matt Clarke, who has been missing since the away game at Hull Ionians in early October following an injury.
And within minutes of his arrival he was putting in some serious runs down the flank, one of which almost produced a fourth Huddersfield try, but sadly Sutcliffe dropped the final pass, which would have surely put him over in the corner.
Whitehead also linked well with Clarke on another 60-odd yard burst which again could have yielded a further score had the last pass not gone to ground.
Matt Johnson, who replaced Ryder on the wing and took over the kicking duties from his brother Chris, missed a 70th-minute penalty, but just as the second half looked destined to remain pointless (in more ways than one) veteran prop Neil Gillan scored a close-range try right on the final whistle for Cleck.
And with Hayden adding the two-point conversion it gave the scoreboard a bit of respectability, although in truth, the winning margin was certainly more than eight points.
Reserve hooker Franny Entressengle did himself no harm with a workmanlike performance, Tom van Rooyen had one or two powerful runs, while newcomer Jack Andrews showed a few glimpses of promise, playing at No8, as did stand-in second rower James Bodsworth.
Cleckheaton:@ Masserella, Yaden, Piper (M), Murphy, Ashworth, Edwards, Depledge; Turner, Piper (R), Goodwin, Beasty, Mason, Whitehead, Clough, Burrows. Subs: Castle, Piper (A), Jackson, Hamilton, Gillan.
Huddersfield:@ Owen; Ryder, Van Vuuren, Van Rooyen, Sutcliffe; Johnson, Hinchliffe; Slater, Entressengle, Battye, Hinchliff, Bodsworth, Lewis, Whitehead, Andrews. Subs: (all used) Doust, Johnson, Clarke.
Referee:@ Nick Ramsden (Yorkshire Society North).
YMCA lost 20-9 at Doncaster Phoenix. Report tomorrow.