A BAD injury to Clitheroe’s Martin Lafrancheschina marred this game at home to promotion favourites Thornton Cleveleys at a sun-drenched Littlemoor on Saturday.
After half an hour, at a Thornton scrum close to the try line, the visitors’ excellent scrum half broke round the fringe to surge through a tackle for the score.
Unfortunately the tackler, Clitheroe’s full back Lafranceschina, fell awkwardly and was left prostrate and obviously in some discomfort.
A bad leg injury required Air Ambulance evacuation from the pitch and a long delay in the match.
The land and air medical staff were top notch and the assistance and concern of Thornton’s own travelling medic and staff was also appreciated.
Fortunately, injuries such as these are rare in rugby union, but it certainly took the gloss off the day.
The visitors travelled on the back of a long unbeaten run.
But Clitheroe had made a decent fist of the away fixture at a very wet Thornton in October, and were in confident mood of being competitive from the outset.
But losing their best counter attacker to a serious injury rocked the team, and then followed a catalogue of more minor knocks and cuts that exhausted the substitutes’ bench and left individuals playing out of position by the time of the final whistle.
Right from the start it was even stevens with both teams searching for an advantage.
Thornton were exuding the confidence that a winning streak gives a team, and were asking serious questions of the home defence.
An aearly exchange of penalties was soon cancelled out when the seasiders forced a five metre scrum.
The scrum was to be Clitheroe’s nemesis all afternoon, and the well-drilled Thornton eight had Clitheroe back peddling to claim the try.
Worse was to come as Lafranceschina suffered his injury as Thornton scored again, and upon the much-delayed restart, Clitheroe took some time in getting back in their stride.
Meanwhile Thornton showed just why they are likely to be promoted at the end of the season.
They are probably the best all-round team in the league and have very few chinks in their armour.
Clitheroe strove manfully for the remainder of the game, but the tries seemed to rain in with some monotonous regularity - almost as quickly as Clitheroe players were leaving for the treatment table.
Back row men Darren Eagle and Alex Hough went off with pulled muscles before Sam Thornber retreated to casualty with a cut eyebrow.
In between times there was an odd flash of some good rugby from the home team.
Stuart Railton and Chris Waddington had sound games in the threequarters, and Greg Birch was industrious on the right wing.
At least Clitheroe had the last say in the game when, with one final assault on the line, iburly prop Jim Smith claimed the touchdown for Clitheroe’s solitary try.
But all in all a day to forget, at Littlemoor, for followers of the maroon and gold’s.