U14s ease past Skipton
By Christopher Barraclough
U14s win down the A59
First of all a big thank you to Skipton for making the U14s very welcome. Neither side could understand why we haven't played each other more and aim to put that right going forward. TREDS was on display from both teams, throughout the match - the Skipton boys did their shirt proud. Both teams were reduced in numbers, due to the Easter holidays, but managed to field 12 man teams.
Form the kick-off it was clear that these were two very even sides, playing a similar style of rugby. Rucking was solid and both sides looked to make use of the space out wide. Skipton drew first blood with a solid run from centre field, but in what was a close affair, Clitheroe scored the next two before Skipton closed out the half to finish 10-10.
The Clitheroe boys had performed steadily, if not outstanding, in the first half and had matched their hosts toe to toe. Clitheroe were possibly getting the ball out into the backs better than Skipton, but the hosts were getting greater success around the breakdown.
And so to the second half. Skipton started brightly, moving the ball up the pitch with a series of phases. Clitheroe were defending well, but the ball fell to one of Skipton's front row who seemed to wander through a series of missed tackles to score after only 2 or 3 minutes of the half. 15-10 to the hosts.
This very soft try seemed to galvanise the Clitheroe boys, who finally got themselves out of third gear, missed fourth and moved straight into fifth. The remainder of the half was easily the best rugby this team have played since their early outing to North Ribb. They were aggressive, direct and alert. They won every ruck, every loose ball and pretty much every scrum - I genuinely don't know what happened!
What was pleasing was the mix of forward and backs play, drawing the defensive line in before releasing the ball quickly out to the backs who continually pummelled Skipton's defence out wide. The lads had clearly learned a lot from their last mauling in a 12-a-side game! The reward was 4 further tries, three of which were converted by Havard, returning 26 unanswered points.
Our forward line was well led by the Best brothers. Ethan was the target of every kick-off, caught the lot and carried ball into contact over and over again, usually followed up by Jake taking in red ball after red ball. Luca Rush is finding his feet in maroon and yellow and caused a constant threat as a breaking forward. With several regular players out, Henry and Haydn filled in well at 9, feeding the ball out cleanly and steadily. Birch had moved from the pack to the back-line, with his usual "direct rugby" style causing both him and the Skipton defence a number of headaches!
Havard was a constant threat around the breakdown, jackleing at every opportunity and providing a good link between forwards and backs. The pick of the Clitheroe tries was a superb combination between Charlie and Ollie, carrying out a perfect "truck and trailer" move down the left, performed at full pace, with clinical perfection. Barraclough had probably his best display of the season, more vocal and confident at 10 with each game, three try saving tackles in the second half and a brace of tries coming from powerful runs. A final mention to hat-trick boy Ibby; players on his inside worked well, to work the ball to him, but his direct running was a constant threat and he enjoyed the better of a great personal contest between him and the Skipton No14.
Before the game I challenged every boy to think about his own individual performance and how they could give just 10% more to the team - every single one of them responded and the collective effect, especially in the second half, was a joy to behold. Well done boys.