Clitheroe suffer defeat at leaders

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Clitheroe went down to the league leaders as they took the short trip over the hill.

It was a much-changed back line which took to a very wet pitch in the driving rain, although the forwards had a similar feel, apart from the welcome return of Jim Smith at prop.

Clitheroe started well, chasing down their restart kick and camping in the Pendle half for the opening 10 minutes.

A quality, but makeshift, backline needed to settle, and a score at this stage would have been just the tonic.

With the forwards recycling swiftly and sparky scrum half Smith driving them on, try as they might, Clitheroe could not quite find the break, however.

Pendle sneaked possession and the remaining 30 minutes were spent camped in the Clitheroe half. The defence was immense and although the tough conditions hampered Pendle at times, it was mainly down to aggressive tackling by Waddington in particular, aided by Ed Rigby in the centres and the wing men Greg Birch and Simon Gretton.

In the closer quarters it was the usual hard play by Smith, Ralph Rigby and Cowgill which prevented Pendle from crossing the line.

Pendle’s resolution to maintain the pressure was admirable – many teams would have become frustrated at being held out for so long.

Their back row pounded the gain time and again only to be met with powerful tackles from all quarters.

Eventually the pressure told after a good 30 minutes under the cosh and Pendle scored out wide and their kicker slotted the difficult conversion.

Early into the second 40, Pendle appeared to knock on and dashed in for further try but missed the conversion.

This galvanised Clitheroe and from the restart they pounded up the hill – driving ball from the Thornber trio of brothers Andrew and Mick with cousin Ed was up to their usual standards and pushed the Maroon and Gold up the pitch nicely.

When the ball was spun out to the backs, Tattersall, making a rare appearance at 10, looked to deliver it to the centres on the break, and Waddington in particular made some powerful runs before managing to turn and represent the ball back nicely for the back row to recycle.

As ever Ralph Rigby and Si Cowgill were beginning to dominate the breakdown.

Pendle transgressed at the breakdown in an attempt to counterbalance the flanker’s tenacity, and Wadding skimmed the ball unluckily off the uprights and Pendle breathed again.

Cowgill took a blow to the head and left the field of play with Andrew Thornber rolling back the years to return to blindside flank, and diminutive dynamo Adam Penny coming on to hook.

Pendle took advantage of a ball which spilled out of the back of the next ruck, and their winger chipped over the top and scoot through to touch down, and with the conversion Pendle moved into a 19–0 lead with 15 minutes to go.

Ben Rigby at full back took the ball on after the restart and swiftly released Birch on the wing, only for the promising move to break down in the conditions.

Pendle ended the game with a score at the death which moved the score line on to 24 –0 and they ran out deserve winners and look assured of the league title this year.

However, there was a gritty determination about the Clitheroe performance, which was epitomised by man of the match centre Chris Waddington with some hard running and aggressive tackling.

On Saturday, the first XV entertain Ashton-on-Mersey at Littlemoor, while the second XV also host Preston.

The seconds went down 27-5 at Burnley thirds, having turned up a man short.

Theyplayed in possibly the worst conditions seen in many a year, but still came out of the day with some positive aspects.

Firstly, captain Pund welcomed back winger Caunce, fly half Stot and centres Fairhurst and Parker after all missing some weeks and months due to various commitments and injuries.

The approach they bring to the seconds’ game will surely mean this team win more than they lose in the run in to the end of the season.

Also, the youngsters including Robinson, Williamson and especially Clitheroe’s man of the match Hayton showed some good touches in a game where Burnley’s forwards and their wily fly half bossed the game for extended periods.

It was only as the game was nearing to an end that Clitheroe consistently pressurised the home side’s line, with Farnsworth coming close and the captain himself scoring Clitheroe’s only try of the game.

So to Saturday and a home tie against Preston Grasshopper sixths, who lie immediately below Clitheroe in League 5N.