ASHTON CLINCH BLUSTERY CUP ENCOUNTER
By Roger Holmes
Injury jinx strikes again
Following the recent bruising encounters of the league, a cup fixture seemed a welcome distraction for the men in maroon and gold.
Taking in to consideration Clitheroe’s reputation of somewhat of a cup team, coupled with a hard fought victory over Ashton at Littlemoor only 3 weeks ago in the league, an away “W” seemed well within their grasp.
With “Storm Callum” making an unwelcome yet dry appearance, the swirling gale would test even the most basic of skills on this day. Skipper Will “Dickos” Dickenson briefed his men on the task ahead, a tight game was to be played with the elements against them from the off.
The tone was set in the opening plays with strong, direct carries from the centre partnership of Paddy Bowers and Bick Dickinson and unwavering defence from Pete Shorthouse and Niall Spence in the back row. The first line break of the game came from the menacing Ashton full back, leaving Clitheroe to scramble in defence. An uncharacteristic yet gladly received turnover from Adam “Ruck Guard” Penney briefly relieved the pressure with no.8 Jarvis Stanton opting to kick to clear/ cross field kick. One too many loose passes followed and Clitheroe found themselves with a defensive scrum 5m from their line. The home team proved to be well drilled and dominant in this discipline all afternoon, with the Ashton no.8 showing good soccer skills on this occasion to shepherd the ball over the line to score. The resulting conversion was missed, 5 -0 it stayed.
Despite the Clitheroe forwards enduring a tough time in the scrum, in open play they were certainly a match. Their tenacity was personified in the being that is Jarvis. The politics student made a real nuisance of himself, dancing through the opposition ruck like Boris Johnson. One too many flailing contacts resulted in some strong counter rucking from Ashton and Jarvis left the field of play clutching his shoulder, nothing serious we hope. On came John “Robin” Banks seamlessly slotting in at the back of the scrum.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Ashton had forced their way back in to the Clitheroe 22. Their quick shuffle ball proved too much for Clitheroe with the Second Row exploiting a gap to dive over the line under the posts. Conversion was good, 12-0 Ashton.
A stern talking to from experienced heads had the desired effect. With Ashton growing frustrated at Clitheroe’s quick ball they were penalised for consistently not rolling away at the ruck. Joe “Lego head” Wilkinson stepped up and calmly slotted for the maroon and golds first points of the day. 12 – 3 Ashton.
Seemingly lifted by points now on the board, again came Clitheroe battering their way over the youthful Ashton backline through Luke “Lobster” Hayton and Jack “Accy” Stanley. Some sharp sniping round the fringes from Joe WB and unbalanced defending resulted in Ashton conceding yet another penalty only 10m from their try line. Skipper Will Dicko (pic) with hands on the ball sniffed an opportunity with the quick tap. A trade mark effervescent charge left him just short of the line, halted with a crunch… Alas, this wretched injury streak continues, his spam built frame being carried off with a knee problem was a disheartening sight for all. This gave an opportunity to little brother Nathaniel “Bacon Ears” Dickenson to take to the field for the first time this season following a shoulder injury in pre-season. A bittersweet introduction back in to the fold but nonetheless a player Clitheroe have greatly missed. Still in possession the ball was recycled well by the men from Littlemoor and following some quality phases through the hands, Ross “Knock on” Chamberlain found himself on the wing, ball successfully caught, 10m from the line. With the pace and grace you would expect of a prop forward, he grunted and groaned through the gears to bulldoze over the line. With the conversion unsuccessful, Clitheroe trailed 12-8.
With the responsibility passed over, stand in Captain Bick unsheathed his copper curls from the restraints of his scrum cap and delivered a rousing speech to his brothers in arms. The war cry was soon answered with only 5 minutes played in the second half. Niall “Louie” Spence picked from the base of the ruck and powered over the line to complete a fine passage of possession phase play. A well-deserved try for the perpetual Spence who battled all game. The wind once again carried the conversion attempt wide of the uprights but Clitheroe had the lead, 12-13.
The next 20 minutes saw both teams trade possession loosely around the half way line with nobody able to take control of the game. With both Ashton and Clitheroe coming off their foot at ruck time and conceding penalties on the edge of one another’s 22 the scoreboards ticked over trading successful attempts at goal.
With only 10 minutes remaining Clitheroe had a slim lead of 15-16. Joe Wilkinson made way for the fresh legs of Joe “Beans” Smith who had an immediate impact. The Ashton full back sliced through the line with searing pace only to be caught around an ankle at full stretch by Smith, a tackle worthy of any highlight reel. Only minutes later the Ashton danger man had possession once more, this time releasing their winger in space who darted down the touch line to score in the corner.
Following the pattern of the afternoon, the kick at goal was missed and left Clitheroe with just 5 minutes
to rescue the tie. They came close following tight forward play in the Ashton 22 but once this was released to the backs the ball was fumbled in contact and that was the game.
Full time Ashton 20 – Clitheroe 16.
The positive to take is that all that donned the Clitheroe shirt never gave up and came within a few metres of winning this game. Some alternative decisions to keep ball in hand could have made all the difference in difficult conditions but on the day the home team executed their plan with greater success. Plenty of work for the physio department this week as the list of injured continues to increase at an alarming rate. Time for those of able body to man up and make themselves consistently available…
Report by ST