After the disappointment of the previous weekend’s last-gasp loss to Scarborough, the Woldsmen headed West to face Cleckheaton. Traditionally a challenger at the top end of the table, Cleck have found themselves towards the other end of this very competitive league.
Driffield showed just a couple of changes from last week, with Cooper, Sowersby and Jackson returning to the fray.
On a heavy pitch, Driffield found themselves playing into the stiff breeze in the first half. Cleck showed well straight from the kick-off, moving through the phases and then spreading the ball wide and stretching the visiting defence. In a sign of what was to come, Driffield’s defence was excellent, stopping the bigger forwards in their tracks and showing discipline at the breakdown. The early scrums were solid and when Driffield did get hold of the ball, they showed good ambition, trying to offload out of the tackle and stretch the home side.
Driffield had the first chance for points when Brankley burst through a tackle and found the excellent Soanes in support. Driffield were awarded a penalty but Watts pushed it wide on the breeze. Driffield won another penalty off the back of a scything break from Soanes. Watts ran at the defence and Soanes picked a nice line to break the line. This penalty came to nothing, but Watts opened the scoring on the back of a strong break from Sowersby. Cleckheaton 0 – 3 Driffield
Driffield’s defence continued to snuff out the home side’s attack, stopping play but also winning turnovers allowing Watts and Furbank to clear. Cleck did open the scoring just before half time with a penalty from a scrum, converted from far out by the excellent fly half. Cleckheaton 3 – 3 Driffield
With the wind at their backs, Driffield had the opportunity to use good game management and make Cleck score from deep. After a wobbly start to the second half, Furbank used the boot to good effect and established some territory. Brankley broke the initial line of defence and chipped through but the ball beat everyone and went dead. After the restart went out on the full, Driffield had a scrum in midfield. They worked the ball blind where Jackson was taken high, and Watts converted the resulting penalty. Cleckheaton 3 – 6 Driffield
Driffield went back on the attack after harrying defence forced an error in the Cleck half. Brankley broke from the base of the scrum, and Driffield won another penalty and saw a Cleck player despatched to the sin bin. Driffield opted for another scrum and Brankley broke again, this time finding the offload to Watts. He moved the ball to Stephenson and his momentum took him in the corner for the first try of the game. Cleckheaton 3 – 11 Driffield
Driffield gave Cleck the chance to narrow the gap after a poor exit from the restart and the penalty was duly converted. Cleckheaton 6 – 11 Driffield
Brankley saw yellow straight from the restart due to a high tackle, and then Cleck levelled things up with a try of their own, the winger dancing through tackles to score, surprisingly unconverted. Cleckheaton 11 – 11 Driffield
It felt like momentum had shifted, but Dinsdale did his best to wrestle it back, claiming the restart and weaving towards the Cleck line. He was hauled down, and the ball recycled, but Watts’ miss-pass was slapped down giving Watts the chance to regain the lead. Cleckheaton 11 – 14 Driffield
Driffield attempted to play the clock down and at times did this very well, showing good control of the ball, whilst at others play looked a little erratic. Watts had a chance to extend the lead with a difficult kick, on an angle and a good distance out. He converted – an outstanding kick under pressure. Cleckheaton 11 – 17 Driffield
With five minutes left, Driffield nerves would have been jangling after the last-minute defeat to Scarborough. Cleck won a number of penalties and kicked deep into the Driffield half, setting rolling mauls and heading towards the line. Heroic defence kept Cleck out and, with a turnover won deep in Driffield territory, it was down to Brankley to break from the base of the scrum and from the resulting ruck, Sowersby hammered the ball off the pitch to seal a hard-fought and well-deserved victory.