League rugby returned to Kelleythorpe on Saturday with the visit of old rivals Cleckheaton. Traditionally challengers at the top end of the table, Cleck have had a mixed season thus far, but beat Pocklington in a close game last time out.
Driffield were again missing captain Mewburn and Cooper, but fielded a strong-looking, if inexperienced, pack. Watts continued at fly-half with Furbank on the wing, with plenty of pace in the outside backs.
Driffield started well, determined to continue the momentum from a victory over table-topping Scarborough. They challenged the visiting defence, but found stout resistance before conceding a penalty and allowing Cleck to clear to touch. The visitors lineout was a real strength, but malfunctioned on this occasion giving Driffield a midfield scrum. Watts found Dinsdale on a short line and he powered through the defence before showing his pace for the first time during the game and scoring under the posts. Watts converted. Driffield 7 – 0 Cleckheaton
This was just reward for the pressure exerted thus far, and Driffield should have capitalised and extended their lead, but a combination of good defence and poor discipline kept the score at 7-0. Cleck made the home side pay when they struck with virtually their first attack. A nice pass found runners in space through the middle and, after being hauled down, Cleck worked the ball back to the blind and the winger showed quick feet to score out wide, well converted by ex-Driffield player Dearing. Driffield 7 – 7 Cleckheaton
Driffield didn’t let the disappointment linger and they hit back with a superb try. A long clearing kick from Cleck found open space and turned Driffield around. Furbank and Jackson did well to tidy up and Driffield’s forwards regrouped. Gray sniped around the base of the ruck and found Cullen with a back of the hand offload. Cullen accelerate into space, drew his man and found Dinsdale again. He again showed his pace and sprinted away to score under the posts for Watts to convert again. Driffield 14 – 7 Cleckheaton
Again Cleck hit straight back. A penalty in midfield was kicked to touch and a rolling maul set. Driffield defended this well, and the ball was moved to the backs. Clever decoy running made space for the visiting centre to stroll through unopposed and he scored under the posts, with the conversion levelling the score. Driffield 14 – 14 Cleckheaton
Cleck took the lead for the first time when they moved the ball wide and found the number eight running strongly. The ball went to floor, with Driffield perhaps looking for the knock-on, but Cleck hacked through and scored out wide, again well converted. Driffield 14 – 21 Cleckheaton
An entertaining first half wasn’t finished as Dinsdale completed his hat-trick. Cleck spilled the ball in midfield, Dench scooped it up and moved it to Dinsdale who finished well from 30 yards. Watts converted from touch to leave the score even at Driffield 21 – 21 Cleckheaton
The Woldsmen almost grabbed the half time lead with excellent interplay from Turner and Gray, but the last pass went forwards and the chance was lost.
Driffield started the second half as they had the first, registering an early try. Zavatti, who carried strongly all afternoon showing surprising pace, made the initial break. He found Gray who spread the ball wide to the wing. Cleck scrambled well and made the tackle, but Driffield moved the ball to Dench whose wide pass found Dinsdale again and he scored his fourth. Watts again converted to leave the score Driffield 28 – 21 Cleckheaton.
Cleck then started a prolonged period of pressure, testing the young Driffield team with a series of rolling mauls. Driffield’s discipline again faltered a little, heaping the pressure on their line, but time and again Cleck found themselves repelled. This felt like a key moment in the game, as neither side had managed to get more than a score away from the other. Driffield defended magnificently, keeping the bigger eight at bay, and engineering a turnover. On their first incursion to the Cleck half for some time, they earned a penalty which Watts pushed wide from distance.
With a foothold now established in the opposition half, Driffield won another penalty, this time opting to kick to touch. Driffield lost the lineout and Cleck cleared their lines with a box kick. This was kept in play by Gray who swiftly transferred the ball to Dinsdale. He found Jackson who attacked the line and fed Robinson, who had looked sharp all day, and there was no stopping him as he sped into the corner. Watts added another difficult conversion. Driffield 35 – 21 Cleckheaton.
Driffield again found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle and this let Cleck establish a series a rolling mauls near the Driffield line, one of which they smuggled over the line and reduced to deficit to nine points. Driffield 35 – 26 Cleckheaton.
Driffield responded with a penalty to leave the score Driffield 38 – 26 Cleckheaton.
There was still time for Cleck to exert further pressure on the Driffield line as the trickle of penalties turned into a flood and saw the Woldsmen lose a man to the bin, but their defence held firm.
This was an excellent win for Driffield against a savvy, robust opposition, who had a nice balance between backs and forwards. Dinsdale will rightly take the plaudits for his try-scoring feats, but the forwards set the tone. Dervey, skipper for the day, carried strongly all day, bouncing opponents out of the way and showing his young pack the way. Blenkinsop and Zavatti also showed well, keeping the set-piece stable and working hard in the open. Sowersby looks like a real find at hooker, not only with his work rate, particularly in defence where he regularly knocks bigger men backwards, but with his leadership. Warkup, Dinsdale and Turner never stopped working freeing up space for Cullen and Mewburn to look dangerous with ball in hand. In the backs, Gray remains a classy operator at scrum-half and Watts has developed well at fly-half, giving his pacey backs chance to run and demonstrating considerable skill when kicking for goal. Jackson has been a dangerous addition at full-back, with Robinson demonstrating his versatility and danger on the wing.
Difficult games keep coming and a trip to high flying Huddersfield follows next weekend.