SIXTEEN points from full-back Martin Lafranceschina were unable to prevent Clitheroe from slipping to a 23-16 defeat to Birchfield to remain bottom of the Northern Division - North Lancs Two.
Clitheroe visited the Widnes based side in good form following their impressive four-try victory over Carnforth last week and enjoyed the better start against the third placed side.
They moved the ball well initially and recycled it to good effect, benefiting from some strong support play as they looked to exploit any weaknesses in the Birchfield defence. Despite enjoying the better start, Clitheroe soon found themselves trailing to a penalty, although Lafranceschina was on hand to level the scores to punish a Birchfield indiscretion.
After doing well to get themselves back into the game, Clitheroe became their own worst enemy as they failed to deal with the restart. They were unable to secure the ball and allowed Birchfield’s back row forward to run the ball into the corner for a very soft try.
However, Birchfield were unable to kick the conversion so the score remained 8-3.
The Clitheroe captain administered some stern words behind the posts and it seemed to have the desired effect as Clitheroe responded with some gusto.
A well-worked move saw Lafranceschina come into the line as an extra man to exploit a hole in the drifting defence to score a fine try. He converted the score to put Clitheroe up at the interval.
Clitheroe started the second half in the same vein of form and Lafranceschina was able to kick two more penalties to stretch their lead to 16-8.
However, Birchfield responded with a few tactical substitutions that turned the game back in their favour. They began to dominate the scrum and were more competitive at the breakdown as they put Clitheroe on the back foot.
Following a sustained period of pressure they were finally able to make their possession and territory count as they scored a converted try to bring them to within a point.
Clitheroe had their chances but had begun to noticeably tire and Birchfield upped their game.
A penalty saw them take the lead and one further try finally ended the Clitheroe resistance and secure the 23-16 victory.
Depsite losing Clitheroe can take great heart from their performance, particularly in the first half.
They will be hoping to be more successful in their next game when they travel to face Crosby St Marys RFC on Saturday.