Clitheroe Get Out of Jail
Last minute penalty seals it at Littlemoor
Well the crowd certainly got their moneys worth – as one observer understated after this tense and close battle at Littlemoor. With the result in the balance right up to the final whistle it was not one for those of a nervous disposition.
The fist home game of the new year and old foes Bury were the visitors, and with both teams languishing in the mid table regions it was an ideal opportunity to show that last weeks loosing but massively improved performance was one of substance and not a false dawn.
Fielding largely a similar line up from that game with the addition of Dan Smith and Marco Vaghetti at scrum half and stand off respectively.
The pitch was in decent enough nick apart from a softish area in the bottom 22, a tribute to the monumental effort from groundsman Phil Isherwood, and Clitheroe kicked off down the slope.
However Bury had not read the script and came out of the blocks with a high tempo game which had the Maroons scrambling to hold on in the early exchanges.
Eventually the line was breached and Clitheroe found themselves under the posts watching the conversion sail over after just five minutes of play.
Clitheroe began to work themselves into the game, skipper Will Dickenson leading by example, taking the game straight to the Bury defence.
Clitheroe began to get a foothold in the game and worked up a head of steam through the pack. The tight five supertankers made relentless yardage, James Pate and Tom Walton in the thick of it, before back row glory boys Darren Eagle combined with Richard Slinger[pic] to put the latter over for Clitheroe's opening try. Jonny Cuddy converted and the home team were ahead.
Clitheroe continued this period of dominance and were looking sharp in the backs, where Vaghetti and James Dickinson combined profitably in the 12 channel but the final pass would not just go to hand.
However Clitheroe eventually forced a good field position just yards from the Bury line and after a couple of botched chances went begging, a driving maul off a line out saw Eagle claim the score.
A bout of post try fisticuffs kept the referee on his toes, but calm as ever Cuddy slotted the extras to put Clitheroe in a handy 12-5 lead.
Bury refused to capitulate and came back with a try of their own to give the Littlemoor men a slender 14-10 half time lead.
A four point cushion never seemed safe, especially as Clitheroe spent the next 30 minutes under the severest of examinations bogged down inside their own 22.
Changes in personnel from the bench seemed to unsettle the team and a string of penalties piled pressure upon themselves.
Finally, after some heroic defending, the line was ruptured and Bury took the lead, by a point, with 10 minutes remaining.
And so to the final denouement – the town team now girded their their loins for a final assault. James Cathcart made a slicing break through and seemed destined to score but some excellent cover defence from the visitors dragged him down just yards out. Clitheroe now had the field position but as time slipped away they couldn't keep the ball for long enough. Bury's line held firm but a wayward clearance enabled the ball to be driven up hard again. Over eagerness at the ruck gave advantage to Clitheroe and to everyone's relief a kick at goal was the chosen.
Up stepped the nerveless Cuddy and coolly slotted the clinching points to give the Clitheroe team the spoils.
A deserved win for Clitheroe, less for the quaility of rugby, but hugely for the never say die attitude and refusal to accept defeat until the final whistle
Credit to Bury also, a difficult way to loose, but magnanimous in their disappointment.
So Clitheroe roll on to Ashton under Lyne this Saturday, still with a mathematical chance of making the top four – they have everything, and more, to play for.
Report by our Special Correspondent