Clitheroe U14s win on the road
By Christopher Barraclough
This was all about belief!
This was the game that Clitheroe U14s finally came together.
After been soundly beaten by Colne, Nelson & North Ribblesdale a fortnight ago, the boys have worked very in training to plug some of the gaps in their play. What a difference 2 weeks can make!
Both teams started brightly in the first quarter, trading single tries. Clitheroe opened their account with a typical Dickenson try, bursting through the centre after some good breakdown work and showing a clean pair of heels. Worthy was good for the extras. CNNR responded a few minutes later but were unable to make the conversion. Towards the end of the quarter, having worked the ball through several very secure phases, the back line formed and burst into life. Moving forward as a unit and at speed, the ball moved out swiftly to Ibby at outside centre who jinxed through to score our second. A bit too wide for the extras but a healthy 12-5 lead in the bank.
The two most obvious improvements in the Clitheroe team in the first quarter were their ability to close down CNNR's big runners and the scrum. Whenever the blue shirts got the ball they were put under huge pressure and not allowed to build up speed. Havard was particularly energetic at closing down the opposition. The Clitheroe scrum was a revelation and a big nod to coach Benji Barraclough who worked with the boys midweek on body positions and operating as a unit. Despite being visibly smaller, Clitheroe dominated the scrum both in attack and defence, winning the vast majority of the spoils.
Into the second quarter and the boys only weakness was the ruck. CNNR had clearly worked hard on this aspect and were showing greater tenacity and numbers, but yet again, the Clitheroe boys responded to feedback and went about competing around the breakdown better. Two tries were to come our way, another Mitch solo effort took the wind out of the opposition's sails, just as they threatened to play their way back in, followed by a classic poacher's try from Worthy - popping up halfway down the CNNR backline to intercept and dot down under the posts, followed up with extras. Half time and a healthy 24-5 lead.
The third quarter was where we expected CNNR to come out fighting and the boys needed to show the mettle, not to allow the opposition back in. These are two very even teams and we were expecting an onslaught. CNNR added to their score first with good possession in the Clitheroe half. After some good work at the breakdown on our 22 yard line, the CNNR No8 proved too much for our defence and bundled over after a strong individual run - no more than he deserved for a tireless performance today. However, the Clitheroe boys simply refused to take their collective foot off the pedal and continued to unsettle the strong CNNR back row. Great tackling across the team, notably Jake B., Havard and Birch and strong ball carrying from Willis, Downham and Greenwood saw the forwards maintain the pressure and their ascendancy. This allowed our backs to start to work the gaps, with more wide plays coming from the pace out wide. With quick hands from Fletch all afternoon, Barraclough, Ibby and Worthy were able to move the ball forward at will. Two further tries were added. Barraclough at 10 hit the opposition back-line over and over gain, with a new found ferocity we haven't seen before and was duly rewarded with a try under the posts, having burst through several tackles. From the kick-off, strong running from Havard and a great pass released Ibby again, who had too much in the tank for the flailing defenders, to score again under the posts. This quarter was a succour punch for the home team and closed out with Clitheroe 38-10 to the good.
And so to the final quarter, with tireless forwards forcing the home team back over and over, inevitable knock-ons gave Clitheroe the put in at scrums within sight of the try line. First came Barraclough's second score with another punchy burst through. Next up was Havard, who got a well deserved try after great work from Greenwood et al. pummelling the defence back onto their own try line. Finally, a second dot down in the corner from the ever lively Worthy - his support play every time the backs got up and running ensured that the CNNR defenders were constantly under pressure to cover several attacking options and he was duly rewarded with a proper wingers try, right in the bottom corner.
Two from three conversions saw us close the game out 55-10 and mighty proud the lads, coaches and parents were.
Today was simply a huge improvement on everything these boys have done before. Every single boy played better than they have before and the collective impact was incredible. They showed great understanding of their roles and of their team mates around them. We are under no illusions - we will have hard games to come, not least next week when we entertain Blackburn, but today's result is richly deserved for all the hard work the boys have put in. It should give them a massive boost in confidence and the belief that we have exciting times ahead. This is a long term project and we have taken only baby steps - onwards and upwards!!