Clitheroe break their duck in style

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CLITHEROE earned their first victory of the season in the penultimate game of the year on Saturday.

After several morning pitch inspections, the Littlemoor ground staff gave the green light for this North Lancs 2 fixture to go ahead.

Newton have gained a bit of a, maybe unfair, reputation for not travelling well, and unfortunately for them this was one of those days.

Fair play to the lads who did show though; they had some power in the tight, craft in the back row and a gifted running full back, who looked dangerous on the counter attack.

The home team also had their own selection issues, bringing in at short notice both fly-half James Sharples, and wing Kieran Keough.

A reshuffle at half back saw the return of Dan Smith into the number nine shirt and Struan Robertson switched to open side flank – an area Clitheroe were exposed in the previous match.

Clitheroe have been knocking on victory’s door for the last few weeks, and even though they were confident of a win, no-one could have really foreseen the nine-try demolition that was to occur.

With the skies darkening early, Clitheroe kicked off on a sticky pitch. But they soon began to get into their rhythm. Some hard work on the training paddock is at last beginning to bear fruit.

But it took some time to break down the Newton defence. Strong in the tackle has always been a feature of a team from rugby league territory, and it was no surprise that Newton’s line held firm for long periods.

But Clitheroe drew first blood when full back Martin Lafranceschina swivelled his way over, and the converted it himself.

Newton fought back and Clitheroe were pushed into some rearguard defending; only some good organisation at the tackle area ensured that they were never overstretched out wide or left vulnerable around the rucks.

After surviving the visitor’s onslaught, Clitheroe went back the other end and Smith broke through, showing a decent turn of pace, to go over for the next try.

Just on the stroke of half-time, Mr Consistency Chris Waddington, who was having a fine game, powered over under the posts. The skipper, Nathan Peel converted to give the maroons a 19-0 half-time lead.

More of the same was the message at the interval. Adam Penny came on to replace Richard Edmonson, who had sustained a bash on the head, at hooker.

The second half was nearly all Clitheroe. Indeed immediately, burly wing man Keough was next on the scoresheet - after a scuttling run down the wing bouncing defenders off his chunky frame for his try.

Peel on hand again with the extras.

Another attack and some top notch support work gave Penny his opportunity to score; an all-too rare occasion for a member of the front row union.

Clitheroe made a final substitution, bringing Sam Thornber on in the centres, whilst Sharples made a dramatic exit stage left.

From deep inside the half, and Thornber’s first touch of the ball, and he was off, weaving and jinking for a full 60 metres to score under the posts without even muddying his shirt.

Smith was on fire again grabbing his second before industrious lock Brian Hough made the most of a tiring defence to score his first of the season.

The final word appropriately went to Lafranceschina, nicely bookending the game after scoring the first; he now used his long reach to nab the final try. The captain was on hand again with the two points to seal it for the home team.

Newton were phlegmatic in defeat, knowing they will seek to regress the balance in the return fixture in the new year. They have some classy players at their club and it seems some of them let down their mates on the weekend.

Clitheroe know, however, that they are far from the finished article and have plenty to work on. but at last moving off the foot of the table was definately something to celebrate.

However, this Saturday’s away fixture, at Crosby, will be a litmus test in gauging how far they have really improved.