The trip away to Preston Grasshoppers is always a tough one and Saturday was no difference, with Hoppers fielding an experienced squad.
Clitheroe travelled with a doughty team and were looking to add some points to bolster their league position as the season moves towards crunch time.
It was all Hoppers in the opening 15 minutes as they ran strongly through their centre line, with forwards and backs playing as one. The Clitheroe team were under attack again and again, but the defence was resolute and Hoppers were held at bay. Finally a breather was earned by the Maroon and Gold as the forwards overpowered the attacking Preston pack and won the ball back, which Smith at scrum half spun out to Watson, and in rapid succession flicked it out through the centres and out to winger Gretton, who thrust his way up the edge of the pitch until his chip ahead bounced into touch. Clitheroe won the lineout and Preston, in their eagerness to regain possession, transgressed and Peel nailed the penalty right onto the try line with a magnificent kick from hand.
A slick move at the line out saw hooker, jumper and the peeling Curphey smash over the line to take the lead.
Preston responded almost immediately, smashing a try through the centres and through some meek tackling, followed up minutes later with a similar move through the scrum half springing the ball down a wide blind side and through sets sets of hands to score in the corner and lead 12–5 at half-time.
The second half opened with the Maroon and Gold in the ascendancy, and Preston took to desperation to defend their line, occasionally bordering on edge to the dislike of the referee. It was only a matter of time before someone in blue and white ended up in the sin bin, and suddenly Clitheroe were a man up.
Soon deep in the Preston half and pressing the line, Preston again lost it and another man was sent to the bin, although, contemporaneously with a rush of blood to the head a Clitheroe forward was sent to the bin and the penalty was reversed.
From a fine attacking position for Clitheroe it soon turned into a defensive one as Preston advanced from the reversed penalty. The firestorm dampened, the Maroon and Gold moved once more back into the Preston 22, and Clitheroe looked to take the advantage.
Again, a rash error of judgement saw a Clitheroe forward binned for 10 minutes, and Clitheroe were two men down.
With that any chance of clawing back into the game had gone and the emphasis was firmly on defence, which they did to a man.
The Maroon and Gold man of the match was Curphey.
On Saturday, Clitheroe travel to Sedgley Park.
BAe Warton 43, Clitheroe 2nds 7
The seconds travelled just down the M55 to the great facilities at BAe Warton on a lovely day for fast, running rugby.
Unfortunately for Procter’s charges, Warton did the vast majority of the running and played most of the rugby, especially in the second half.
The first half was a tense affair with both teams choosing to play very narrow and let their forwards bash each other.
This suited Clitheroe quite nicely as they fared well at scrum time, lineout time and won their fair share of breakdown ball too. Young Luke Procter moved from fly half to scrum half and controlled things with aplomb and certainly tested Warton in the opening exchanges, scoring Clitheroe’s only try of the game.
Following this score, Clitheroe let things slide and Warton gained the confidence to start running the ball around with no mean level of skill, putting a number of tries past a growingly despondent Clitheroe team.
Phil Parker played well in the centre, putting in some good tackles and showing real endeavour when clearing out at ruck time. In contrast, full back Bleasdale shone for his attacking prowess.
However, the seconds have a chance to gain quick revenge when they entertain BAe Wharton at Littlemoor on Saturday.