Good effort from the lads that honoured selection.
For this weeks report please read the last game report versus Huddersfield YMCA.
Once again endeavour and workrate did not necessarily constitute reward and victory. The fact that any game took place was remarkable. Not because of the weather……. but the general apathy and plethora of cry offs that have become the norm following selection night on Tuesday. At 1.30pm the 3rds had 11 players, having lost a further couple to the 2nds. Frantic calls were made to recruit, as it was obvious that the lads available wanted a game. After a "permission call" to KP, Dave MONTGOMERY arrived as well as Tom SUGDEN from the colts, and a text to Stuart Nelson telling him to slow down on his way to the ground, meant that the 2nds would have to travel with 16 players instead of 17.
So it was to pass that we arrived at Cleck’s other venue (Whitcliffe Mount), with 15 players. The pitch there was very open, heavy, slopey and wet. Ideal !! What else could possibly go wrong.
A number of issues faced the 3rds, primarily that we lacked props and a hooker, and not wanting to go with uncontested scrums from the start a number of sacrifices were made. The team selected was, Tank and Jimmy LI as props, with Paddy KERR hooking (poorly as it transpired), Pete CRAIGIE and Lewis FISHER in the second row, Dave MONTGOMERIE at 8 with Stuart NELSON and Emlyn JAMES on the flanks. Gaz OWEN was 9, with the welcome return of Chris MERRICK in the 10 shirt. Brook WARD and Gary HARE were centres and Tom SUGDEN and Gary CRAWSHAW on the wings. Travis DENWOOD was full back for his first game of rugby in three years and although out of position performed his duty with great determination all afternoon. Infact, it could have been a father and son day, if his father Sir John DENWOOD had not been involved in a nasty car crash a few days before. Sir JD watched from the sides in an umbrella bought from Garf’s shop last year……….. note, do not buy an umbrella from Garf’s shop now or ever.
The game plan was to keep things within the forwards and gain ground until opportunity arose and magnificent ball could be splayed to the hungry backs. That was the game plan, and we stuck to it for the whole game. All joking aside, 75% of the game was played in Cleckheaton territory and the tackling and defending by Heath was a pleasure to see. MERRICK and OWEN controlled the play with good clear decisive calls all afternoon and the now expected drives of JAMES, TANK and CRAIGIE were building an expectation of success throughout the team.
As expected, the colts, FISHER, WARD, SUGDEN and NELSON demonstrated to both sides the art of tackling and rucking and were a credit to the club ………… no fear amongst these gallant youths.
Unfortunately, youth, speed and skill is no match for strength, experience and cheating as the Cleck older heads resorted to several bouts of handling within the ruck desperately trying to reverse the pressure. Luckily, this was captured on nearly every occasion by the ref.
Working uphill, against the rain, wind and the heavy pitch began to take it's toil on the Heath whose plays, as the half drove on, became more concentrated in a smaller area of the Cleck half. This resulted in a hopeful punt by the Cleck number 10 deep towards the Heath 22, and a chase was on. Another fortunate boot on the ground jettisoned the ball towards the Heath try area, and despite a valiant effort by DENWOOD Jnr, the Cleck’ winger got there, narrowly, to record a try. This was duly converted.
Normal service resumed back in the Cleck half, pick up, drive, ruck, pick up, drive and ruck. Then, another moment against the run of play. A good scrum by Cleck’ left the number 8 with an opportunity to drive in to Heath land. Tackled by the backs, a ruck was formed. Another pick up and drive was made by Cleck’, resulting in a driving maul towards the Heath line. Sterling defence suppressed the anticipated onslaught, but a rare moment of lack of concentration resulted in the Cleck number 8 spinning off and planting (literally in the mud) the ball down for a try. The conversion was missed.
Once again the Heath lads encamped themselves in the Cleck half and battled for the line. With a minute to go KERR picked up the ball from the base of a ruck and chose the blind side with 15 metres to go. Tackled around the legs by the Cleck prop, he fell to the floor looking for an offload to SUGDEN, but met only with an oncoming knee of the advancing Cleck flanker, straight between the eyes. But this was no ordinary flanker …… oh no. This was a Greek international, playing his first game for Cleck having arrived at Bradford University to study. KERR was out for the count . . . the physio, Sandra not bothering to come all that way as she was cold enough as it was. The ref blew for half time and KERR was removed to the chants of "Moon Face, Moon Face !!". Thanks to Cleck for the loan of a decent forward for the second half.
The second half was a repeat of the first with HARE and WARD continually trying to break the line, MERRICK and JAMES tackling and controlling and LI and TANK smothering any Cleck advance with strong defence. Tackle of the day though goes to MERRICK who hit and advancing Cleck forward, solid in the midriff, lifted him and gently drove him back towards Scholes, finally placing him gently on the ground with a warm blanket and cup of cocoa.
Another well controlled drive by Heath resulted in 7 players crossing the Cleck try line, but, unfortunately, 14 Cleck players managed to hold up whoever it was with the ball and a deserved score was nullified. This did not dampen Heath spirits as the lads continued to play what could be called champagne rugby, but our cork had truly popped when for the only time in the game the brilliant MERRICK forgot that the really tall Chinese guy who is in the Guinnes book of records for being the tallest guy in the world, cried off on Thursday and we had replaced him with the tall, but not so tall as the really tall guy from China, Gary HARE. Ball dropped, advantage played, Cleck’ score . . . bugger!
No problem, though we can still win this. CRAWSHAW nearly broke through, as did SUGDEN, both having ably provided good support all day. Following one run from SUGDEN he was tackled and the ball turned over on the half way line by the Cleck’ number 10. He threw an expectant pass to the centre, but it was intercepted by MERRICK who sprinted . ……. er ran very fast . . . chugged, yeah chugged, towards the line. As he approached the 22 it must have been a moment of parental madness as his mum, realising I think the inevitable, shouted "Taxi for Mez !!". Classic, absolutely classic, sledged by your own mum and you haven't even been tackled yet. Oh yeah then he was, 20 meters short of the line. I asked his mum "Where did it all go wrong?". She replied "About 20 years ago when he started eating, drinking and smoking". Talk about competitive dads !
Five minutes later, Cleck made a foray into the Heath half for the fourth time in the game. Tackled about 5 yards out, the Cleck number 6 hit the ground. He then started to do, what was known in my day as "bodypopping", and advanced the 5 yards like an epilieptic slug. According to the ref this was a try as it was his momentum that took him over. Ho hum, try converted, final whistle. Every one agreed, supporters included, "bloody good game".
The only surprise to come was the temperature of the Cleck showers, which were so hot they removed epidermal layers.
MOTM - Backs - Chris "Carl Lewis" MERRICK - Forwards Jimmy "I’m puffed out can the physio pull me off" LI
Keep the faith lads keep the faith, its got to be better than Tesco's on a Saturday afternoon.