It’s been some time since Clitheroe locked horns with a Blackburn side and in this much anticipated fixture Clitheroe had quite some pool of talent upon which to draw.
Si Cowgill was released for the weekend, Lewis Williams returned from his New Zealand trials and Matt Bartle took up the seconds centre jersey in the first of many games hopefully together with returning former league man Mark Fisher.
It was a fairly ferocious opening with both teams wound up to the hilt.
Clitheroe were managing to work up field well and maintain a functional defensive form when required, however Blackburn had the upper hand when supporting each other at the breakdown.
Throughout the majority of the first half, Cowgill, Thornber and Farsnworth were combining well in the loose while Holland and Procter were rock-like at scrum time, but Clitheroe just couldn’t breach the line.
Following a succession of penalties, some of them wasted by quick taps, Clitheroe eventually managed to put a score on the board with three points from the boot of returning full back Keough.
However, by this time, Blackburn had scored three tries, using their pacey backs to good effect each time and despite territory and possession being fairly well matched, Clitheroe were on the wrong end of a 15-3 scoreline at half-time. To make matters worse, Thornber Jnr had to leave the field with a knee injury, but although his replacement Harper is older than Thornber’s father, age certainly isn’t everything and Harper invariably leaves nothing on the field, delivering on this occasion some excellent work on the floor after entering the fray.
It wouldn’t be fair to omit to mention the heroic defence by the Clitheroe back line throughout the first half. Gretton, Bartle and Fisher held firm in midfield whilst Shread, Stott and Keough plugged the gaps well against fast-moving opposition.
Into the second half Clitheroe were still going one step too far in some instances and were leaving themselves open to turnovers by the dextrous Blackburn defence and the home side were quick to turn opportunities into points scoring two quick tries before the 50 minutes mark. Clitheroe weren’t finished and following excellent drives towards the Blackburn line on the left, the ball was moved swiftly to the right where Fisher found Gretton in just enough room to squeeze over. Keough added the conversion to take Clitheroe’s tally to eight.
Unfortunately, that was their last score despite the increased pressure they were putting on the Blackburn defensive line during the latter pats of the game and after the home side added a final try the final whistle blew.
All substitutes managed to get a game and no-one disgraced themselves in any way. It was a valiant if slightly flawed display in that they weren’t the same cohesive side who had performed so well together only a few weeks ago.
The home side were modest in their win and declared it one of their harder games for the season in which they’ve maintained their place in the higher echelons of the division. They were certainly tough opposition, even for this strong Clitheroe seconds squad.