Leaders show why they are promotion favourites as Clitheroe RUFC suffer heaver defeat

Clitheroe RUFC Kestrels Under 11s are pictured. The Kestrels are looking to build their squads across the Under 9, 10/11 and 12/13 age groups.
Clitheroe RUFC Kestrels Under 11s are pictured. The Kestrels are looking to build their squads across the Under 9, 10/11 and 12/13 age groups.

Table toppers and promotion certainties North Manchester RFC were the visitors to Littlemoor, and in no mood to mess about.

And in their very first attack showed just why they have gone the entire season unbeaten so far.

The home team were under their own posts, wondering what had happened, and the game was scarcely five minutes old!

Worse was yet to come.

Welsh wizard scrum half Dan Smith was soon being led from the fray with blood dripping from a nasty cut over his eye.

A swift reorganisation brought skipper Nathan Peel back to the number nine berth, and Alex Hough came on into the back line.

Clitheroe were under severe pressure, and several times they seemed to breach the defensive line only for some last-ditch scramble cover tackling to save the day.

The fact that at half-time Clitheroe were only 15 points down showed the tremendous effort put in by the whole team during the first 40 minutes.

The second period, although scoreboard-wise similar to the first, saw Clitheroe play some of their best rugby.

And, indeed, a prolonged siege on the Manchester line deserved to pay dividends for effort alone.

The watching crowd were appreciative of the endeavour shown, but you just felt that if they could have nabbed a try at this time, another could have followed.

However, as it was, North Manchester showed just why they are in the position they are.

They proved a bit more streetwise at the breakdown and had some excellent footballers in the centres and in the back row.

Clitheroe were no means disgraced, but the better side won on the day.

Clitheroe are a less experienced side overall, and have yet to fully realise and fulfil their obvious potential.

It is in their own hands to grasp the nettle and continue to move their development further forward.

It would be invidious and unfair to highlight too many players for special commendation, as the whole squad fought with such heart.

Having said that, special mention goes to the two quietest players on the pitch; centre Chris Waddington, who had his usual storming game in spite of carrying a knock.

Also Jacob Shorrock had a busy afternoon.

Despite playing out of position in the second row, he grafted on in his understated uncomplaining but trenchant fashion.

This Saturday Clitheroe travel to near neighbours Pendle RFC in Nelson.

Meanwhile, Clitheroe seconds rumble on in their quest for promotion.

Saturday’s match against a full-strength Blackpool first team became an epic battle as both teams threw everything into the game.

Neither side, both blessed with youth and experience in equal measure, seemed able to break the deadlock, and the half-time whistle blew with the score 0-0.

In the second half, Clitheroe found that extra resolve and the game started to turn.

The pack picked and drove continuously, luring the home side into infringing at the ruck as they tried to stifle the Littlemoor men’s advance.

The referee had his work cut out as the nip and tuck rugby was played out by exhausted old heads.

There were odd breaks where Clitheroe managed to work ball from the base of the ruck through the arresting hands of Jerry Sturgess at scrum half through to Mike Morris at stand off.

Bartle the recipient at centre gave a master class in gain line play, fully justifying his decision to again come out of retirement, and slowly the cracks began to show in the resolute Blackpool defence.

Pick and drive, pick and drive, Clitheroe advanced. The granite-hewn Harry Proctor charged into the blind side defensive line. Then with split-second timing he drew in the thick of the defence and popped a sublime pass to son Craig, who drove through the last line of defence and touched down.

What followed was a vision. Debutant Chris Stewart, brought onto the left wing at half-time, sprinted down the wing so quickly that not one player from either side could offer support or obstruction, a brilliant first try.

In the dying minutes some neat passing and hard running saw Blackpool crash through the drained Clitheroe defence, but this was followed by the full-time whistle and a wholly deserved 13-5 victory.

Man of the match was Jim Smith for his robust defensive play.