Our friends from Burnley make it tough for the Maroon & Golds
By Bob Wilkinson
On a beautiful autumnal (slightly wintery), Clitheroe surged away with a win that was not always in the bag
n past seasons, this group of lads have done well against old foes from over the hill, Burnley. Last season they inflicted serious defeats home and away and although this season was closer, Clitheroe were always in the driving seat. Today was different.
Clitheroe had made a few changes but after the late withdrawal of a couple of players hampering team plans, the 16 that travelled made up a quality side who were looking to build on the successes of the previous week's solid win vs Oxton Parkonians.
The early exchanges certainly went the way of the home team playing in their famous primrose and blue stripes, who were making good yards close in around the rucks, their large forwards ploughing on phase after phase. Clitheroe weren't unduly phased by this significant improvement in the Burnley side since the last time we played them and they simply stuck to their task of defending very well. Make the tackles and wait for the chance to pounce.
After 20 minutes, the scoring started. Clitheroe built up their play well after the initial Burnley onslaught and after some neat interpassing, centre Hamlet was the beneficiary and first 5-point scorer. A couple of minutes later, Enion was tackled high and after the ensuing penalty, from around the half way, Hamlet's centre partner, Stanley went on an arcing run to the left and with an outrageous dummy bought by the scrambling defence, he found the space to score Clitheroe's second try in the space of 3 minutes.
As we neared the end of the first half with Clitheroe absolutely in the ascendancy, No.8 Aspin, receiving a clearing kick on halfway, set off on one of his mazy runs that Jonny May would be proud of. He succeeded not only in making everyone dizzy with his jinking and darting but also clicked on the scoreboard by another 7 points with an amazing try and a subsequent Duck conversion. Clitheroe were in an handsome 19-0 lead at the half hour mark.
At this point, Burnley re-found their mojo, shown briefly at the start of the game and in a 4-minute spell they grabbed back 2 good team tries to take the score to 19-14 to the visitors. Far too close for comfort and a "confronting reality" half time team talk took place.
The second half pretty much belonged to Clitheroe. Whilst they weren't on top right through with Burnley stringing some good periods of possession play together, Clitheroe always had the ability to click as a unit and use their superior speed and handling out wide, keeping the ball away from the strong and able Burnley forwards. On 50 minutes, the Burnley half backs tried to string passes together around the Clitheroe 10-metre line and anticipating a loose pass, Wilkinson stuck his hand out and managed to grasp the ball at the second attempt before streaking 60m, just evading a despairing tackle to score his first of the day.
17 minutes later, Clitheroe were awarded a penalty after a second high tackle and seeing the defence up flat and narrow, the ball was moved swiftly to the left and down the flank into the Burnley 22. The team was really starting to click again and after a couple of solid phases, scrum half Worthy ran a flat line before picking out Wilkinson with a short pop pass, who was on a sharp angled run to score his second and Clitheroe's 5th try of the game with only a few minutes remaining. That wasn't, however, Clitheroe's last score. Initially, prop Brown was denied a try in the corner after bulldozing from the 5-metre line and this might have been given on another day, he wasn't lucky on this occasion. From the following attacking scrum, the backs showed some adept handling and direct running and full back cum winger Davies topped off the game with a splendid team try.
At the final whistle, Clitheroe could clearly be heard issuing a sigh of relief as their team ethic had returned and the points had started to flow. Burnley offered a much sterner opposition that we've seen in recent encounters and Clitheroe certainly can't afford to be so profligate next weekend when they travel to Ormskirk, who beat a depleted Clitheroe 55-35 back in October.
The coach's Man of the Match went to centre Jack Stanley. Not once did he shirk his defensive responsibilities and he scored a brilliant individual try to cap off a great afternoon for the CRGS player.