Tight Opening Day Reverse for Clitheroe
By Roger Holmes
New Leagues first fixtures
So at long last it was the opening day fixture in the brand new league set up; the much trumpeted Lancashire County RU leagues – with the Maroons placed in the grand sounding ADM Division 1.
The usual selection quandaries for the management in the build up, with holidays, injuries and WAGS preventing play for some individuals.
But even so the side looked promising – and the well used phrase of experience and youth was certainly fulfilled . Two young Colts making their 1st XV debuts and another couple only still in their teens – great prospects, Joe Wilkinson, Jack Stanley, Dominic Styler and Matt Furbush.
At the other end of the scale , old father time's best mates Andrew Rigby and late inclusion Darren Eagle were in the pack to bring the average age, grey beards and wrinkles shooting back up.
The pitch looking in fine fettle in spite if the past 24 hours incessant rainfall and even the opposition were complimentary of it in the warm up – top marks to groundsman Phil Isherwood so far.
To the game itself then; Clitheroe were behind in the first 10 minutes when the visitors showed some good support play to crash over.
This appeared to awake the Littlemoor outfit and they began to flex their muscles. A good field position deep in enemy territory was established and from the resulting scrum Sam Thornber barreled his way over. Furbush on hand with the extras and all square.
Clitheroe were again next on the board, attacking from a turnover deep in defence. A kick and chase from Stanley saw a pile up next to the posts and it was victory for the little guys - when Adam Penney, who had run as fast as his short legs could carry him , was in good support to flop over the line for a well received try. Furbush again on target with the conversion
Unfortunately Clitheroe's cutting edge up front was blunted when their two key ball carriers were sidelined out of the fray. Tom Walton and the Skipper Will Dickenson would be missed in the final shakedown.
North then replied with a try of of their own, to give Clitheroe a slender half time advantage.
A few home truths from the coach at the break and Wilkinson swapped with the excellent Stanley in the back line.
Now playing up the slope Clitheroe began to labour and began to look mighty short of a gallop, with maybe the lack of match fitness beginning to tell.
North took full advantage and went ahead and looked the better side at this point.
But the maroons buoyed on by a record Littlemoor crowd kept pressing . Some deft passing at last drew the cover and Wilkinson scampered over for his debut 1xt XV try.
A further penalty from Furbush's trusty boot eased Clitheroe away. But North struck back to retake the lead with 10 minutes to go.
Some frantic attacking up the middle of the pitch with a few bullocking runs from Rigby and James Pate created field position for the backs to do their thing. The defence was outflanked and Wilkinson scooted round to score under the sticks. 29-24 to Clitheroe and surely they'd done enough.
Not so fast.
North came pounding back and again their big forwards showed good hands in the offload and scored in the corner to level scores. A pressure conversion sailed over.
A last minute ding dong all out attack came to naught. As the referee blew for no side it was clear the defeat was well and truly snatched from the jaws of victory.
The overall wash up view? Ring rusty ? Yep for sure, but can and must get better. The youth of the team excelled. Maybe some selection tweaks can increase the urgency. We await the injury reports with interest.