Clifton 17 - 39 Canterbury
By Mike Barber
Error count the difference as Clifton struggle to apply pressure to league front runners
ollowing 2 weeks break and the agonising defeat against Guernsey still fresh in the squad's minds, Clifton welcomed 2nd place Canterbury to Station Road and were looking to kick some momentum back into their league campaign.
However, Clifton started poorly and following a misplaced kick and over chasing defence, Canterbury smithed through the Lavender defence to score under the posts within 2 minutes.
Clifton then began to play in the right areas of the field and after a trademark Sam Goatley break, Will Pomphery came within 2 meters of the line. Following a good set piece and pressure, Clifton hit back with a try by Tom Francis to bring the scores back to 5-7.
Clifton were defending well against the league front runners but kept letting Canterbury off the hook and were unable to sustain pressure for prolonged periods with a penalty for crossing being awarded and converted to move Canterbury ahead 5-10.
Clifton continued to have plenty of attacking ball in the Canterbury 22 and when Canterbury's captain was yellow carded for a high shot, Clifton kicked for the corner. However, yet again they could not sustain pressure with the ball spilling forward inches from the line from the pick and drives.
Clifton were in the fight, until an interception pass on the stroke of HT, gifted Canterbury a try against the run of play to go in at Half Time 5-17 up.
Clifton started the 2nd half well and their attack looked promising before another error saw Canterbury kick ahead and the ensuing chase saw the visitors touch down to record the bonus point try with 3 minutes of the half played.
Clifton rallied 5 minutes later as a well worked line out and phase play saw them touch down under the posts and convert to bring the scores to 12-24. Canterbury were capitalising on Clifton's errors, with the Bristol men struggling to gain any continued pressure on their visitors which was beginning to look like the difference between the sides.
Canterbury once again scored and added a penalty before Mitch Spencer produced a delightful chip ahead to touchdown and bring the game to 17-31 with 4 minutes left to play.
Clifton were hunting the bonus point 4th try, until Canterbury struck again at the death to extend their win to 17-39 which although did not reflect the difference in quality between the two sides, did reflect the errors and ability to apply pressure.
Clifton now will look to regroup as they face relegation threatened London Irish away next week and then the re-scheduled game away to Birmingham & Solihull on the 23rd February in what will be an important few weeks in the squad's league campaign.
"Individually, Canterbury's detail was better than ours. We didn't apply pressure in the right areas for long enough and our ability to react to errors in our transitions was a big difference today. We did some good things in attack and defended well but when we turned the ball over, we got punished and that is something we will need to reflect and focus on for next week."
Matt Salter, Head Coach