It was with great surprise that the 6th team took the call informing them that this weekend’s game at Clitheroe was ON!. The Christmas shopping would have to go on hold for a little while longer! Hoppers 6th V Clitheroe has been a close fixture for the last couple of years with Hoppers taking the last two and Clitheroe the two before that. Both teams knew it would be a close if not a pretty game.
We weren’t disappointed. In conditions not dissimilar to that famous Fran Cotton photo from years ago, battle commenced. Hoppers started strongly but poor handling kept giving away possession. An early penalty to Clitheroe for an offence at the breakdown saw the opposition take the lead. Within minutes Hoppers had the chance to equalise with a kick of their own. Unfortunately Andy Fielding, who was magnificent with the boot last week, struggled to find the target (the ball didn’t leave the ground actually!!!).
The game continued with dominance ebbing and flowing between the sides. This was a good even game with just enough needle to keep it interesting but nothing quite getting out of hand. Clitheroe went into half time having protected their slender lead. Clitheroe made several changes during the break, you could tell! Not only could you see the colours of their clean shirts but they were clearly a more dominant side in the second half. Hoppers were forced into constant defence and in fairness it held up pretty well to the onslaught.
The loss of the Hoppers fly half, Chris Allen, to injury on sixty minutes was a blow. He was probably Hoppers most influential player up to this point. Opportunities came but two more missed penalty attempts sealed Hoppers fate. Two well worked tries in the third quarter gave Clitheroe enough to see the game out. Constant infringement at the breakdown did result in a yellow card for the Clitheroe scrum half but even though Hoppers spent the last ten minutes camped in their 22 the breakthrough didn’t come.
Perhaps better tackling, perhaps fewer knock on’s and the result may have been different. There is always next time. Final score Clitheroe 2nds – 15, Hoppers 6th – 0.