Clitheroe undone by Birchfield
By Bob Wilkinson
Mistakes costs team dearly
Clitheroe welcomed Widnes based team, Birchfield, to Littlemoor on Saturday with hopes high for their long awaited first win of the season. Especially after the previous weeks encouraging draw at Carnforth, surely the players would be queuing up for a chance of a coveted 1st XV jersey.
But alas and alack, it was the start of half term, which meant half the team were away, causing major headaches for the selectors.
However,..... one man’s misfortune , and all that, gave just the opportunity the much maligned team pickers to draft in some new young blood.
So in came James Sharples
at outside half and Luke Hayton at blind-side flank. On the wing Garth Spencer
continued after a promising debut last week.
A well organised pre match routine seemed to set up the scene nicely for the expectant touchline crowd, and seemed to have the team in the correct frame of mind by the kick off.
But after 10 minutes there was a horrible feeling of déjà vu in the air. Birchfield had started at a gallop and were over the try line in a trice, a try and a goal in credit, swiftly followed by a penalty. All before the regulars had unscrewed their Thermos flasks of soup, the visitors were ten points ahead, and Clitheroe were all at sea.
Perhaps after glancing at the scoreboard, the home side began to awake and play some half decent football of their own. Sharples began to probe for openings in the channel, and almost broke clear on several occasions, but just could not find the support player to continue the move. McLean in the centres had some powerful surges but again it came to nought.
Clitheroe’s defence began to crank up the work rate and Birchfield were forced to rely on putting boot to ball on many occasions to clear their lines. All this was meat and drink to full back Stuart Railton
, who needed no second invitation to counter attack at every and any, opportunity.
One such situation so nearly opened Clitheroe’s account.
Fielding the ball in his 22, a mazy weaving run brought play into the oppositions’ half. The move was continued well by support players including lock forward Alec Hough ; all of a sudden it was a three on one situation with the line at their mercy, but the pass wouldn’t stick and once again a chance went begging.
Just as the half time was approaching, Birchfield launched an all out assault on Clitheroe’s defence an almost on the whistle bagged another score.
0-17 down at the interval then and things only got worse. Clitheroe were on the attack, when almost exactly as the previous week – interception and suddenly the maroons were back under their sticks, with the guilty party closely examining his boot laces in embarrassment.
Undaunted Clitheroe picked themselves up and dusted each other down. It was time to roll up the sleeves and just get stuck in.
And got stuck they did. Wave upon wave of attacks forced the visitors to concede a string of penalties whilst going in reverse. Eventually after a protracted period of time in possession and opening was fashioned and the Skipper Nathan Peel
scuttled over for the try.
Was this to herald the great come back?
Well no, as it turned out. For all Clitheroe’s effort, it was really a case of too many mistakes – gifting ownership of the ball away on far too many occasions, therefore making themselves unable to apply the steady drip drip pressure. Plus the finishing was just not good enough on the day, those half chances needed to be put away. More precision, more accuracy, plus much more care of the ball at the restart line outs.
Birchfield were good enough value for their win, but in the cold light of day Clitheroe will rue not capitalising on their own chances.
Even so with so many players unavailable it was a massive positive to be able to field a strong side at all. The debutants will have gained from their experiences and certainly didn’t let anyone down. In fact they have only deepened the pool of talent available for the selectors.