Clitheroe are in the countdown to the final few games of the season, and played their penultimate away match of the season at Sedgley Park in scorching temperatures and bright sunshine.
It was a case of all hands to the pumps for the Maroon and Gold as with a plethora of injuries in the backline, combining with Easter holidays, meant only three regular backs were available, and it was the mighty Littlemoor forwards who stepped into the breach!
Prop Ben Graves, playing at inside centre, with usual flanker Si Cowgill at outside centre, were complemented by diminutive hooker Penny on the left wing and Danny Cowgill, more used to playing second row or flank, hitting the dizzy heights of right wing.
A last minute cry-off meant the first team travelled without a substitute, and the 15 players knew that a full 80 minutes was going to be a necessity, despite the heat and hard, grassless pitch.
Sedgley Park moved the ball well in the early encounters and soon found themselves a couple of scores up as Clitheroe’s “re-shaped” backline took a while to gel, understandable in the circumstances.
Sedgley continued to shift the ball between backs and forwards in a fluid manner which belies their league position for much of the season.
However, the Maroon and Gold started to hit their stride, and although shipping another couple of tries in the interim, captain McEntyre’s men really began to win ball up front and keep the turnover ball coming, with the Thornber triplets of Ed, Mick and Andrew showing up very well in the loose, crashing play.
The advantage of having so many forwards in the backline is the aggressive tackling and ball winning skills – highlighted by Si and Danny Cowgill excellently.
With this “extra” possession, Clitheroe pressed into the Sedgley half and continued to claw their way back into the game in a possession and territory manner if not numerically.
Graves at centre started some charging runs typical of his usual performance at prop, and some of the tackling in the backline out wide from Danny Cowgill and Penny was try-saving and resolute.
Railton at 10 was giving his usual standard of kicking and clearly enjoying his afternoon winning ball in the loose like a flanker, while Watson at scrum-half was marshalling forwards and backs alike – meaning Clitheroe were beginning to compete more and more in all spheres of the game.
Finally, after Sedgley had added to their try tally, the Clitheroe team gelled as one and after some great interplay between backs and forwards, Chamberlain winning some 50/50 ball and Jim Smith smashing the ball up the centre of the park, the back line got involved and spun the ball wide before Penny got involved to make sure the ball came back on the Clitheroe side – Watson spun it out to Graves who took the crash ball and spun round to score a well deserved team try.
Throughout the second half Clitheroe were competitive and instrumental in making the game a good spectacle for the supporters watching in the sunshine, and although the game had long gone – as could be expected given the limited backs available – they showed some great spirit and as would be expected from any Littlemoor team, they fought until the final whistle.
Sedgley ran out deserved winners by 43-5, but the Maroon and Gold fought well and can be proud of turning out and turning up with a full XV which was more competitive than the scoreline indicates.
Meanwhile Sedgley continue their meteoric rise in league form of recent weeks.
On Saturday the 1st XV entertain Ormskirk in their final home game of the season, and look forward to welcoming back some regular backs from the injury list to end the Littlemoor season in style.