Clitheroe travelled to face Leigh on Saturday and the game demonstrated just how closely-matched the teams in the league are.
Clitheroe started the day fifth, and Leigh in second to bottom, by the time the day ended, the town’s team had slipped a place, and Leigh had climbed out of the relegation zone.
Clitheroe started lethargically, and Leigh capitalised handsomely, with their number eight and stand off leading the charge with some slick moves, aggressive rucking and good foraging on the ground, leading them to score three quick tries within the first 15 minutes, leaving Clitheroe reeling.
Solid tackling from Jim Smith began to stem the Leigh flow – time and time again he slammed the opposition runners into the wet turf.
Leigh played a clever game and used the narrow pitch to their advantage, with some crashing balls up the middle from some well-worked set piece moves. A tipped ball off the back of a shortened lineout dropped neatly into the scrum half’s hands, and he spun it out to the crashing loose forward, who sliced through to score.
Everything good was coming off the Leigh 10, who went for nearly 50 minutes before getting tackled and felled.
Clitheroe eventually started to wake up and looked to the usual key players to make their mark – last week’s man of the match Mick Thornber showing up well in the loose and Jim Smith powering into tackle after tackle – with wiry Simon Cowgill doing his usual good work on the floor.
In the back line Chris Waddington was having what is fast becoming his regular, disruptive, hard-running game.
With the Maroon and Gold slowly warming to the task, as they scrabbled on the floor with some interesting interpretation of the ruck laws from the man with the whistle, unfortunately it was Leigh who played the referee much more efficiently.
While they were chasing the game from a 17-0 deficit, Clitheroe naturally had to play a slightly loose, frantic type of game – which on a wider pitch might have paid more dividends.
They had chances through the back line with a slicing run from Peel going out to Ben Rigby, who had joined the attack from full back, giving the ball to an over-eager Redfearn on the wing, who unfortunately had over run his man and the ball went to ground.
Every time Clitheroe seemed to making progress into Leigh 22, some niggling transgression was spotted by the referee and progress was halted. A kick over the top fell into Leigh hands, and as they tried to run it out of their 22, Cowgill put in a textbook tackle and McEntyre stole the ball before the Leigh man could sent it back in the ruck. From this possession, the forwards drove forward and set up a good platform for the backs to run off, with Smith slipping it to Watson at 10 and making his classic pop pass to Peel, who powered through to score under the posts and claw back seven points with five minutes to play.
Suddenly Clitheroe thought the game could be won, but some sorties into the Leigh half failed to yield any further scores, and Leigh held out for a deserved win.
Jim Smith who named the Clitheroe man of the match for putting in some try-saving tackles throughout the first, torrid 20 minutes.
The Maroon and Gold will have to lift their game on Saturday at Wigan, whilst the second XV entertain Colne and Nelson at Littlemoor.