Park come unstuck against bogey side

Percy Park's Ali Blair in action against Cleckheaton.
Percy Park's Ali Blair in action against Cleckheaton.

CLECKHEATON certainly are Percy Park’s bogey side and their 33-32 win meant the team from Moorend completed the double following victory earlier in the season.

In a week which saw Shrove Tuesday, Percy Park’s first half performance was as flat as a pancake, and the visitors shipped 25 points in the first 18 minutes, to the shock and astonishment of both sets of supporters.

Cleckheaton kicked off and had the slope and wind advantage in the first half.

But it was not the elements that were the difference between the two sides, rather the home side were up for the challenge while Park thought they just had to turn up, which they did not for the first half hour.

The first score came after only two minutes, when scrum-half Ollie Depledge put in a box kick for wing Ross Hayden to chase. The Park defence was flat-footed and the ball bounced kindly for the home side as Hayden beat Ash Smith to the line to open the scoring.

Smith had a chance to get Park on the scoresheet but his penalty kick hit the post and stayed out.

Park then switched off and a well worked move at the front of the line allowed hooker Steve Worsley to charge down the blind-side to score on nine minutes.

Two minutes later it was more of the same as Park appeared unable to get to grips with the game, allowing the home side to score again, this time through Piper.

The conversion was off target but Iain Gordon was on target on 14 minutes as he converted yet another try by Marshall, and with less than a quarter of the game gone Cleckheaton were 22-0 in front.

A penalty on 18 minutes and the home side led 25-0.

Park at last managed to retain some possession and secure ball, and when Cleck were down to 14 men Dave Griffiths powered over for a try between the posts.

Park then scored again shortly before the break as Andy Dunn drove over in the corner, making the half-time score a little more respectable at 25-12.

A stern interval team talk seemed to rally the troops and Park scored inside two minutes of the restart, with a fine try by Ali Blair, set up by a scything run from Smith which took away three defenders.

Smith’s conversion meant Percy Park were within six points and it was Cleckheaton’s turn for the jitters.

Two minutes later Park cut the gap to just one with a try by Craig Fidler, and could have taken the lead but the conversion went over the top of the left hand post, and both touch judges kept their flags down.

Park came close again through Blair down the left hand flank as he was bundled into touch just short.

On 63 minutes Cleckheaton were awarded a penalty which was converted by Gordon but Park took the lead with Griffiths’ second try. Smith again hit the post with his conversion, but Park now led 28-29.

When Cleckheaton were penalised for offside, Smith stepped up and coolly kicked a penalty as Park looked to close the game out for an unlikely win given the early score.

Park were at their most dangerous when attacking through the backs, but they appeared to change their game plan to close down the game.

Two penalties in the Cleckheaton half relieved the pressure on the home side as they kicked the ball into the Park 22, to launch a final assault.

Their patience paid off as they crossed the line with a second try by Jonny Marshall with three minutes remaining.

And with West Hartlepool winning with a bonus point at home to Team Northumbria it means Park have relinquished top spot.

Percy Park Lions booked their place in the final of the County Cup with a 36-12 win away at Alnwick, and the Penguins booked their final place with a 33-15 win against Seghill Deputies.

Unfortunately the Marauders went down 13-11 at Border Park.

On Saturday Park’s 1st XV play Northern at Preston Avenue, the game sponsored by Jopling and Turnbull.