Clitheroe edged out by North Manchester in New Year encounter
.......... renewed optimism ................
Clitheroe have been on a very poor run of form recently but the return of a couple of players from injury gave the squad renewed optimism for the trip down the M66 to North Manchester.
The game started on a pitch that had held up well considering the amount of rain but the day was cold with a biting wind but as usual it was the hosts who started like they meant business. The age old problem of slow starts has dogged numerous Clitheroe teams and so it proved again when after the early exchanges, North Manchester crossed for a try. The try occurred due to a number of missed tackles and poor defence meant that Clitheroe had to work to get back into the game.
The maroon and golds showed character and in a physical encounter gradually reasserted themselves and gained parity with the hosts. The scrum was functioning well with only the line out not being as productive as it usually is. Chris Stewart made a welcome return at scrum half and combined well with Cathcart and Stewart also continued to put in his customary big hits
It wasn’t a day for expansive rugby, it was a day that was going to be decided by who made the least mistakes. Clitheroe fought their way back into the game and following some pressure in the host’s half, penalties were conceded and duly slotted by the ever accurate Cuddy.
Schinkel made good ground and repeatedly got over the gain line and he was ably assisted by Pate as ever and Hayton who had a strong game.
At half time Clitheroe were in the ascendancy and led 6-5 thanks to two penalties and looked comfortable in dealing with all that North Manchester were offering.
The second half began and Clitheroe were awarded a further two penalties which again were converted by Cuddy to give a healthy lead. But…just at it seemed all was going well a good break from North’s scrum half resulted in a number of missed tackles and he crossed for a good try but the hosts were unable to add the extras.
The warning signs were there for Clitheroe and it seemed that they had learnt. More territorial pressure and good work in the loose from the forwards brought transgressions and two more penalties were awarded and six points gained.
So a lead of 5 points, fifteen minutes to go and all seemed set for a long overdue win. However the hosts had other ideas and following a good break from the winger a further try was conceded and with the extras added the scores were 17-15 to North.
Clitheroe seemed to lose confidence, play was rushed as the prospect of victory ebbed away. A further try was conceded from close range and the extras converted and the lead was 9 points.
Clitheroe exerted some final pressure, two of North’s forwards were sent to the bin but wrong decisions cost Clitheroe the chance of a bonus point.
The game finished at 24 -15 to the hosts but despite the loss there were positives. The scrum functioned well, Tom Walton had a strong game at prop, Pate carried well and Eagle was excellent. Cathcart looks stronger by the game on his return, Slinger is returning to form after injury and James ‘Bicky’ Dickinson showed good power with some strong running. Debutant Sam White looks a very good prospect. Spence and Smith did all that was asked when they came on and Stew Railton was excellent and is a real plus to any team.
Man of the match for Clitheroe was Luke Hayton (pictured) for an excellent performance.
This team looks to be returning to where it was at the beginning of the season but it needs a little more belief. More players returning from long term injury will certainly help.
Let’s hope it arrives in time for Bury at home this Saturday.
Report by SD