Kirk's men trek on.
By Roger Holmes
Phasers Set to Stun.....
Thornton Cleveleys away is a daunting challenge for any side. Last seasons opening weekend 78 point drubbing at their hands was still fresh in the memory.
Still with each win expectations increase. This team has consistently improved since last seasons Christmas win away at Blackburn and with three good wins under the belt this term the team was looking to claim another big away scalp.
Despite the usual last minute reshuffling, someone finally realising that Murray is not medically fit to play rugby, call ups to the ones etc the twos fielded a side that was strong on paper and quietly confident.
TC had high expectations and were keen to end the Cavaliers astonishing win run. There were welcome returns for Luke Hayton, Pete Shorthouse as well as our favourite rugby league boys Sam and Antony in an otherwise settled side.
TC kicked off and a brutal encounter began. In previous weeks I've had the privilege of describing some outstanding tries, this week however was one for the purists. The game was nothing short of brutal. The refs breakdown interpretation led to both sides initially chose not to compete at the breakdowns allowing the big men from both sides to batter into each other. Sadly for TC's lumps the cavaliers were prepared to throw everything at them the fringe defence, which again was not pretty but with each and every member of the tight five and back putting in hits they will be proud of. TC couldn't break through the tight defence despite numerous attempts, eventually they tried going wide and were schooled. Sam and antony were rock solid and aggressive in defence and when TC did break through they were smashed by Joe Smith, who has clearly put any injury worries behind him and been brilliant so far this term. Two perfect tackles underlined his ability, one was smashing a big back row who had burst through and the second was to chase down the TC wing.
The setpiece started well and eventually Clitheroe were able to secure a stream of possession and slowly work up the field. The pack well marshalled by Garth Spencer patiently worked its way into the enemy 22. TC showed that they are no mugs in defence and worked hard to bring the same physicality to their defence. Ultimately a well worked lineout led to possession in the midfield, Andrew Thornber picked the ball and went, he shrugged off the TC cover defence and burst through and then to everyone's surprise he passed the ball for the first time in 27 seasons. It was worth wait as the perfectly judged pass was gathered by Pete Farnsworth[pic] who is having a brilliant season, who smashed through a last ditch tackle from the TC full back to score a well deserved try.
Sadly garth showed that he is actually human by missing the kick (although he did hit the upright), he is having some season though and it can only be a matter of time before the firsts come knocking especially given the newfound willingness to pick new joiners for the ones.
TC however were not going to be broken that easily and the next ten minutes were some of the most physical played in a long time. So physical that TC started to lose players with knocks.
One of those knocks came from another player soon to be in first team spotlight the resurgent Tom Hardman. He worked tirelessly in both attack and defence and played his part in a stable set piece.
As in previous weeks the cavaliers wouldn't settle for one score a quickly worked there way deep into the TC 22 another solid lineout take by Danny Cowgill gave the pack a platform to set the drive only for the TC flanker to come round on the wrong side of the driving maul disrupting the attack the cavaliers committed the sin of waiting for the inevitable penalty, which never came. One can only assume the ref was looking at the crowd for the crucial thirty seconds (or every player on the pitch has forgotten how offside works). TC managed to unleash their wing who was chased down by Sam, their wing passed to their centre who was smashed by Joe Smith and Austin Wensley, who was outstanding in the defensive effort, pinched the ball.
The relief was only temporary as TC secured line out possession and began to attack again. Smelling blood they threw everything they had at the Maroon wall and after at least 10 phases were rewarded with a try of their own and then added the extras. 38 minutes had been played.
Clitheroe were not prepared to settle for a half time deficet, Luke Hayton and Pete Shorthouse combined well in the restart chase allowing Danny Cowgill to gather possession, a surge from Captain kirk, then three inches from me slowly moved the Cavaliers towards the try line. Garth continued to encourage the pack and was rewarded with a very late hit from the TC tight head prop, luckily the ref saw this one and gave the penalty. In a break from traditional cavalier rugby this team is prepared to take points to win and in Captain Kirk have a leader who has the knack of getting the big calls right.
Up stepped Spence and TC's lead ended along with the half 8-7 the Scoreline.
The side was going well so changes were limited at the half way mark. A tactical switch between Garth and Dave saw the nine and ten reverse for the second half. TC were up for it to say the least.
Again the maroons stood firm although the setpiece started to creak when TC realised the ref didn't quite understand the dark arts luckily Andy Thornber has been around the block a few times and suggested that the loose head and hooker switched, we did with instant results, the TC hooked retired hurt after one scrum and Clitheroe were able to stamp some authority on the opposition pack.
The game was attritional and hard and simply came down to who wanted to win more. The pack won a scrum penalty. Again the sides maturity showed and the score board was nudged on. Much of the next 20 minutes was fought between 10 metre lines although with momentum building Clitheroe turned down three points and went for the corner Pete Shorthouse gathered the throw and the shove was on sadly it faltered a couple of yards short and TC cleared their lines.
On came big Ben Tennant making his return after a brief 18 month absence to add his bulk to the battle.
The teams kept going at each other but the pressure was being to tell with TCs discipline beginning to fray. After 70 minutes a round of changes saw my departure being swapped for Jamie (who started at 14 proved backs can survive in the front row) and shortly after big Geoff came on to Continue his long playing career.
TC pressed for a try but were thwarted time and again one particular hit from Super Wombat (Matt Mitchell who it turns out to my surprise is older than Wombat so clearly has better moisturiser) where he greeted TC's special guest player (a bit like us playing Token I suppose only he was massive) with a simply superb dump tackle to break the TC resolve.
Full Time came and another good win claimed.
Words cannot do justice to this week's effort it was a special game to be part of.
So for the season so far In 320 minutes of rugby the cavaliers have only been behind for 16 minutes this season. Onwards and upwards? Next week sees Leigh 3s make the trip to Littlemoor bring it on.
Report by WRJ