Clitheroe Fall Short in Close Encounter
A slip up in the mud
Clitheroe travelled down the M66 to Ashton knowing that a win would give them a great chance of qualification for the top section when the leagues split in a couple of weeks.
Clitheroe were missing 6 of their regular first team players due to a combination of illness, injury and other reasons. The gaps were plugged by others returning from injury and absence and confidence was high that Clitheroe could get the win they needed.
The game kicked off on a cold afternoon on a pitch with a significant slope (that probably greatly assisted in the drainage) and Clitheroe received the ball playing uphill.
It was always going to be a forward dominated day and the pack started well, using the carrying skills of Getty Schinkel, Will Dickenson and Ben Graves to good effect. The scrum was solid and in difficult conditions the game plan was right as the maroon and golds kept the ball close and gained good territory. Niall Spence was solid in defence and Luke Hayton and Ross Chamberlain were busy as always, doing a lot of the unseen work that needs doing but is rarely appreciated.
Dan Smith at scrum half gave Clitheroe good options with his game and his sniping runs caused the Ashton defence problems. On a number of occasions the overlap was created but the final pass never went to hand and the chance gone. Marco Vaghetti was strong in defence and James Dickinson made some strong carries and tied defenders in but Clitheroe couldn’t capitalise.
Eventually the breakthrough came after a number of forward phases, Schinkel powered over and Dickinson added the extras with a good conversion.
Leading by 7 points Clitheroe looked comfortable and their play suggested more was to come. However Clitheroe managed to shoot themselves in the foot as Chamberlain was yellow carded for foul play and Ashton piled the pressure on. Following resolute defence the extra man showed as the Ashton centre scored off a move off a scrum. Clitheroe defended strongly until half time and at the break it was honours even.
A number of replacements were made shortly into the second half as Graves and Schinkel came off with injury and Struan Robertson and Chamberlain returned to the fray. Clitheroe gave everything they could to create the opening and so nearly did with either the final pass not going to hand or strong tackling by Ashton. Matt Bleasdale had two good breaks but was hauled down as James Cathcart and Stuart Railton combined well.
And then, following a period of pressure from Ashton a penalty was conceded with 8 mins to go. The penalty was slotted and Clitheroe had it all to do.
There were opportunities to draw level with penalties but needing a win, a try was the only option. Clitheroe looked to have created the momentum through the phases but the ball was either knocked on or turned over. The final whistle went and the maroon and golds had suffered a narrow defeat.
This was a determined effort by all, and the stand out player for Clitheroe was Nat Dickenson [pictured]. His tackling was tenacious, he carried the ball well and his all round play was excellent. He went well in the line, combining well with Adam Penney and his return to form is a boost for the club.
The message from today, though boring to some, is the same. This team has the ability to win consistently and well at this level. It is the inconsistency of availability that has cost Clitheroe too many games this season.
Only the players can change that.
Report by SD