Clitheroe underlined their recent progress as a club with a 27-22 victory at Eagle on Saturday – somewhere, in their last flurry in the RFU leagues, they didn’t always travel well to.
First XV skipper Will Dickenson was back from injury, along with Henry Bailey, while David Hodgson joined from Lancaster side Vale of Lune, and another new face Callum Harris came in at scrum half.
The early rugby was all played by the Maroons.
From the kick-off, the hard-working Clitheroe forwards patiently built up several phases to get within 10 metres of the Eagle line.
Some slick hands from the backs down the line saw James Dickenson go over in the corner. The tricky conversation was missed.
Despite some well structured play, the next three scores were all Eagle’s, and before you could blink the score line was 15-5 to the home team.
Before half-time, great hands in the loose from Clitheroe number 8 Luke Hayton helped the half backs unleash Matt Bleasdale, who had a great game in his new number 13 shirt.
Bleasdale broke a couple of tackles and gassed it from 50 metres to score under the posts. Conversation from Dickenson was good and the score at half time was 15-12.
In the second half, first blood was taken by Eagle with a well-worked score, the conversion making the scoreline 22-12.
Clitheroe stayed patient and stuck to the game plan, and outstanding work from the forwards both in the loose and at scrum time was giving the backs a solid platform.
Michael Floyd, from the halfway line, handed off two defenders and skipped past two more to score a brilliant individual try.
The boost gave Clitheroe the momentum, and Struan Robertson was brought into the back row, with war horse Rik Edmondson leaving the field after a brilliant hour of rugby.
Another change was made with Dickenson replaced by new man Hodgson.
Another wide move after some excellent forwards play nearly saw Clitheroe fly half Marco Vaghetti dot down in the corner, but he was snagged just short of the line.
Patient and unrelenting play from the forwards saw Peter Shorthouse go over from a pick and go close to the line to secure a fourth bonus point try, to make it 22-22.
Vagetti, injured in the build up to the try, left the field, and James Cathcart shuffled into the fly half slot, as Dickenson returned to the field.
Through the last 15 minutes, Clitheroe made the most opportunities but failed to finish them.
Some excellent line-breaking runs from both forwards and backs didn’t result in any points, but ensured Clitheroe kept up the momentum.
And the match winning try was scored by the industrious centre Rick Slinger, who, after a brilliant personal defensive display, dotted down to seal the deal.
With the clock dead, Clitheroe earned a penalty, but with a kick straight to touch, under the new laws, the line out would need to be competed for. Eagle disrupted the line out, regained possession and moved the ball into the Clitheroe half.
A brilliant piece of back row play from veteran Darren Eagle earned the Maroons another penalty.
This time a tap before the kick meant the game was over, and a big bonus point away win!
On Saturday, they travel to Garstang in the first round of the cup.
Saturday saw Clitheroe’s second team travel to the seaside to play Thornton Cleveley’s seconds.
Thornton started the game well, breaking the defensive line due to missed tackles, and capitalising on space, they scored within seven minutes, but missed the conversion.
From the restart, they managed to score again due to poor defending, this time slotting the conversion.
Thornton relied on missed tackles to score more tries, but Clitheroe stood firm and improved gradually in defence.
The hosts managed to put 45 points on the scoreline before half-time.
The second half started with Thornton still the better side, but Clitheroe did offer fresh defensive play and some glimmers of hope, with a team still developing.
The second half saw Thornton put more points on the board, but Clitheroe did offer improvement in defence and showed some attacking spirit in what was a tough day throughout.