Clitheroe U14s sneak a nail-biter
By Christopher Barraclough
Clitheroe U14s beat Garstang 2XV by a point
A glorious Sunday morning saw Clitheroe host fellow North Lancastrians Garstang at Littlemoor. Garstang are a strong outfit, who chose to rest a number of their 1st XV in order to help their development players and provide a good contest - for that, we thank them. Well done Scott - you couldn't have known how well balanced the game would be!
By far the most pleasing thing about this display from Clitheroe was that they had worked on a development point during recent training and clearly brought it straight to the pitch at game time. We have had a tendency to over-commit into rucks, leaving a lack of defence around the break-down. We worked on this at mid-week training and the difference on Sunday was incredible - Garstang didn't break our defence on the inside once all game and we forced them to play the ball into midfield. Perfect.
Scores wise, Clitheroe started brightly, with good possession across the park and plenty of pressure. Having camped in the Garstang half for the first 5 minutes, it seemed only reasonable that we should open our account with a fine worked try, through hands to Ibby out wide who put on the after-burners for a 40m run under the posts and the extras added. Garstang, not to be outdone, redoubled their efforts with fine possession and rucking, to work the ball down the field and reply. Importantly though, the Clitheroe defence tracked back well and kept the try out wide, resulting in a difficult conversion missed. 7-5 the lead. The rest of the half was really all Clitheroe. When they didn't have the ball, the defended with aggression and when they did they applied pressure for prolonged periods. Next up was a fine individual try from Charlie, who's rangey legs are hard to stop once he gets going. It was one of those days when, try as they might, every Garstang kick seemed to go straight to Charlie and a fine dodgy run saw a second score under the posts for easy Worthy extras. 14-5. Brocklehurst, with his best game yet for Clitheroe, was desperately unlucky to have a try disallowed after fine forwards pressure and shuffle ball - the ref (boo!) thought there was double movement and disallowed.
Final score of the half was a typical Ollie score, quick tap from a penalty whilst the opposition's backs were turned - a dart from 25m, through a gap, avoiding a tap tackle to finish under the posts again for easy extras and a lead of 21-5. To their credit, Garstang were not going to be outdone and continued to play some good rugby, which was duly rewarded with a try from close range, having camped in the 5m zone for a good while. But again, a score out wide at this age, makes a tough ask for the conversion, which was missed. Half-time 21-10.
And so to a different, yet similar second half. Garstang brought a secret weapon at half-time in their No.1 - apologies that I didn't get his name. With long periods of play being very similar to first half, Clitheroe dominating field position, Garstang's new addition was a truly class runner and on three occasions he collected ball in his own half and ran the length of the pitch and through most of the Clitheroe team to score good tries - If we are to compete with the best, we must learn how to handle these big runners. In what seemed the blink of an eye and despite missing 4 of 5 conversions, Garstang were leading into the last 5 minutes 21-27.
At this point, I want to pause to single out Garstang No.1 - this lad was clearly a good rugby player, with great strength and pace. But so often, this tends to come with arrogance, over-confidence and attitude. Not so here - I just wanted to note on record that this young man played the game to the best of his abilities, gave no ground, scored well, but did it with a smile on his face. On the two occasions that he steam-rollered through an attempted tackle, having scored, he was first to check the defender was okay and back on his feet. No lip, no chat, just good rugby and I wish him well in his rugby endeavours to come...
But Clitheroe's endeavours and pressure finally brought points with a great run from Ibby, into their 22 yard zone and a good number of won phases brought Clitheroe within inches of the try-line. A high-tackle from Garstang brought a penalty, which was taken quickly by Fletch, who dived over the line to score just wide of the left-hand post.
With two tries coming from quickly taken penalties, I think there is definitely a lesson to be had about quick thinking and playing at pace - those opportunities are fleeting, but usually bring points. With extras added by Worthy, the game closed out shortly after at 28-27. Interestingly, with conversions being the new addition at U14, it's worth noting that we lost the try count 4 to 5, but with a 100% conversion rate and 8 extra points added, the game was clinched.
Well done and thanks again to Garstang 2s for coming in numbers and taking part in a proper rugby spectacle.