This weekend’s action took the Woldsmen to Cleckheaton, and their Moor End HQ. With a good away win at West Leeds last Saturday, Driffield travelled with the knowledge that they are now able to compete even on the most arduous of away fixtures in their North One East calendar.
In the home fixture back in September, Cleckheaton had narrowly won. They have a good line-out and driving game, and a huge set of mid-field backs to complement their pack. However, in their match programme they acknowledge the ’all court’ game that Driffield have, and their attacking potency. Cooper and his team realised that they needed to continue to up their game, and they know through vast experience that a torrid reception could be expected. Only a top performance would do. For this game, Gray returned at no 9, with Robinson moving to the wing. Watts was on the bench after a promising game last week. Young Henry Waterhouse moved to the starting fifteen, rotating at prop with Mark Blenkinsop.
From the kick-off, Driffield picked up from where they had finished last week, with some excellent driving and off loading in contact. Douglas was prominent and looks to be near to hitting his top form. Robinson, always in a roving commission, cleared up one Cleckheaton attack with a good 50 metre clearance kick. Dench made one of his trademark bursts through a tackle and made the sweetest of off loads ‘out of the back’ to Burns who carried on the attack. It was evident that Cleck were confident in defence to soak up this early pressure; with their huge set of backs well organised. Piercy took one ball into contact at pace, and was simply buried in a huge hit. Driffield supporters had to look away, fearing a casualty. In his inimitable style he jumped to his feet and shrugged it off.
Furbank, who is looking assured at fly-half, put in a long kick down the middle of the field. It reached the opposition 22, and the Driffield chasers tackled the defender who was penalised for hanging onto the ball on the floor. Up strode Dinsdale to kick his first points of the season. He has an easy action and a huge boot, and with guidance there is little doubt he has the ability to become a ‘go-to’ kicker. DRIFFIELD 3 CLECKHEATON 0
The receiving of restarts seemed to be a problem over a few games before Xmas, but ‘problem solved’ when Douglas took the high ball at full stretch under pressure, and with good support secured the ensuing ruck. A short while later, it looked ominous when Cleck got a drive on from a line-out deep in the visitors’ half; but a Driffield pack, well-primed for the move, got a great drive on themselves and shunted them into touch to get their own throw-in and clear their lines. Burns picked and drove from one scrum, and showed soft hands with a great off-load out of the back to Cullen who carried into the midfield. Cleck applied pressure, and Piercy receiving the ball under pressure evaded tacklers and did well to rescue the situation. Brumfield, always sound in defence, made a great turnover on his own 22 and, aided by Mewburn and Cooper, kept Cleck out.
At one stage, Driffield seemed to keep possession for minutes on end, but Cleck’s defence snuffed out the sustained assault. Gray made a burst through a tackle, and handed onto Burns who made yards. Running out of support, he put in a neat chip to the wing, and only good defence brought the move to a halt. On 36 minutes, Blenkinsop replaced Waterhouse at prop, and partner Zavatti. Driffield continued with a series of drives into the Cleck defence. Furbank was fed the ball, and slipped it to Dench running a great line at pace, for him to score the try close to the posts. Dinsdale added the extras. Making the half time score : DRIFFIELD 10 CLECKHEATON 0
Cooper had to reorganise at the break, with Gray struggling with a knock to his shoulder. Robinson replaced him at 9, with Watts coming onto the wing. As Driffield tried to resume their attacking play after the re-start, Cleck burst into the game. Their backs moved the ball right and, their centre seeing space, chipped through to retake himself, and score a good try, which was converted. DRIFFIELD 10 CLECKHEATON 7
Driffield bounced back and Watts was soon in the action. Dench and Burns combined well and put him into space down the right, and only a fast-covering home defence halted him close to their line. Captain Mewburn realised Burns was struggling with an injury, and had to replace him with his senior legionnaire Ollie Borman, who would introduce his own brand of trench warfare. At the next line, Brumfield threw to the middle of the line. Whether deliberate or not, it looked well worked, because Cullen caught it close to the tail. He made the gap with some seriously quick stepping, and burst through the remaining defence to score a vital try for his team. Dinsdale was narrowly wide with the conversion. DRIFFIELD 15 CLECKHEATON 7
Desperate to reply, Cleck went for a long range penalty just in Driff’s half. It went narrowly wide. They then attacked, and gave their powerful centre Queely a run out wide. Stephenson and Dench had fortunately kept him quiet till now, but it took 3 desperate Driffield men to haul him down short of their line. A short while later Cleck got their reward with a good try by their promising full back. They missed the conversion. DRIFFIELD 15 – CLECKHEATON 12
Driffield felt the Cleckheaton danger looming large as so often before. Dinsdale tried a penalty attempt from 45 metres. He easily has the range, but it went wide. Robinson swooped onto a ball, and tore straight across field as his pace allows. He put Watts free down the right, but good defence stopped him. Driffield continued to respond to the challenge. Nobody, maybe apart from Stephenson, could foresee what would happen next. Cleck won a ball close to their 22. As they moved the ball wider through the hands, from nowhere Stephenson spotted the possible interception, locked onto the ball and with a much-deserved, but restrained, fist pump scored close to the posts. There was an audible gasp from Cleck supporters as they realised their chances were slipping away with this vital score. Dinsdale converted. DRIFFIELD 22 – CLECKHEATON 12
Cleck did not falter once, and as they tried to put their centre through on the 22, Blenkinsop smashed into him like an enraged bull, and ripped the ball in one stunning movement. On one occasion Watts looked to have got thrown off his tackle by a Cleckheaton juggernaut centre. He seemed to bounce up from the deck, and proceeded to literally hunt the ball carrier down, and made no mistake with a great stop. Final Score : DRIFFIELD 22 – CLECKHEATON 12
Travelling supporters were rewarded with this vital win. Those of them who had played themselves at Cleckheaton knew their team had won a much-valued battle stripe. Post-match, centre Kyle Dench put things in perspective for them, when he said that his team will need to raise their level yet again for visitors Alnwick, next Saturday. There are a couple of injury niggles that hopefully can be sorted during the week, but coaches Cooper, Mitch and Macca will already be gathering around the plotting table to devise yet another cunning plan.