CLITHEROE travelled to Ashton-under-Lyne on Saturday on the back of a heart to heart forum to iron out any perceived differences amongst players and staff.
And if this excellent performance is the result, it should be repeated every week!
One point ahead at the turn round, it took Ashton’s heavy pack to finally subdue plucky Clitheroe in the final quarter.
Playing with the wind on a super playing surface, the visitors tore into Ashton, who never got their hands on the ball in the first 10 minutes.
But the injury jinx hit again. Loose forward Alex Bolton left the action with a nasty knee ligament problem on his full debut for the senior side.
This didn’t seem to faze the Maroons as they upped the tempo. Some good line breaks were made but they just couldn’t find the final pass – prop Ben Graves showing a turn of speed, along with number eight Darren Eagle, both prominent in open play.
Two penalties from the boot of Lafranceschina put Clitheroe ahead, but this seemed to stir the Ashton pack, into life.
Clitheroe had to withstand intense pressure towards the end of the half. A punishing series of close quarter scrums were repelled, but eventually Ashton fashioned an unstoppable forward surge to touch down in the corner.
It was nip and tuck again for most of the second period, Clitheroe’s defensive line working hard for each other - putting the Ashton three-quarter line under pressure and snuffing out any momentum at source. Centres Chris Waddington and Stuart Railton combined well, along with the skipper at fly half, in creating an impenetrable defensive wall.
However, the Ashton fly half found his range, and with the aid of a stiffening breeze kept Clitheroe pinned back in their own 22 for long periods.
It came down to unforced errors from Clitheroe to let Ashton off the hook; an odd missed touch finder here, not dealing with a high ball there and too many greedy hands in the rucks shipping penalties that kept the pressure on.
A converted try and a penalty kick was enough to seal it for the home side, who were mightily relieved to win.
For Clitheroe, it seemed like a corner has been turned. Attitude and commitment was A1. Coupled with good on-field organisation, structure and communication, the future must be bright for this team.
This Saturday Clitheroe entertain old rivals Chorley at Littlemoor, kick-off 3 p.m.
FINAL SCORE: Ashton under Lyne 15, Clitheroe 6
Tyldesley came to Clitheroe on Saturday with only nine players, though the hosts agreed to lend them a number of players to make a game of it.
Clitheroe were immediately in the ascendancy, piling on the pressure. Centre McLean took the first chance that came his way; as the ball was moved wide, Bartle set him free down the left he rounded a couple before dotting down. Keough kicked the extras.
Tyldesley were using their large pack well in the opening quarter and forced Clitheroe forwards to transgress, to the extent they were able to kick two good penalties to take the score to 7-6.
But the home pack pounded the Tyldesley line and McLean darted over to take the score to 12-6.
Number eight McEntyre was next to score. Winger Cook made good yards and a driving maul took Clitheroe into the red zone. McEntyre popped up from nowhere, and despite a desperate tackle from opposition stand-in full back, he bullocked his way over the line.
Then a strong tackle from McEntyre forced a Tyldesley spill yards from the Clitheroe try line. Captain Thornber sprinted away before offloading to Bartle, then McLean, who sprinted the remaining 60 yards to score.
The final try of the half came after good interplay again between Thornber and Bartle, and Cook raced away to make it 33-6.
It didn’t take long after the break for Clitheroe to score again. McEntyre took a ball from Watson in his own half before tearing down the left flank, bumping off three would-be tacklers to score an excellent try.
A similar run by Hayton gave Clitheroe space on the left once more. He gave the ball to McEntyre, who unselfishly popped the ball to Sharples to score.
Only 15 minutes later McEntyre once more turned from provider to scorer and took the score to 52-6.
On 65 minutes man of the match McLean received the ball in his own half. This time he beat four defenders to score a fantastic try and make it 10 tries in four games.
A couple of minutes later, Farnsworth passed off to Brown, before Bartle drew two men before passing to Sharples, who scored under the posts.
The final try came from Hayton after McEntyre had done much of the hard work to get him into a scoring position.
A visit to Les Towler’s Bolton fourth team is next up on Saturday.
FINAL SCORE: Clitheroe 2nds 69, Tyldesley 3rds 18