Victorious Wanderers Claim The Double
The Wanderers sealed their League and Cup ‘Double’ with a convincing victory over Drybrook United in the final of the GRFU Premier League Cup
With home advantage and League Champions credentials most will have pegged the home side as favourites for this encounter, but the Clifton management were forced to hammer the message home about not underestimating the Forrest side who had not lost game since December and had claimed several significant major club scalps along the way including the accolade of being the only side to beat the Lavender & Blacks this season.
Clifton found themselves without top scorer Luke Blizzard and top try-scorer Mike Cross who received late call ups into the 1st XV. In the absence of utility half-back Alex Haynes skipper Tom Bellak moved from 15 into the 10 shirt.
With the visitors penned into their own half from the start, scrum-half Sam Boyland opened the scoring with some neat footwork from the base of the scrum.
With Drybrook desperately seeking parity at the set-piece and an effective exit strategy the score line remained 5-0 for much of the first half as both sides came to terms with the strong winds.
Finally, new centre Cal Roberts, who impressed all afternoon, notched up the first of his hat-trick when a stolen Drybrook scrum provided Clifton with a welcome opportunity to take their total in double figures.
The home side managed to add more daylight between the scores when No.8 Josh Goddard barrelled over from the back of the scrum to go into the interval 17-0 ahead.
The hosts gave themselves the best start they could to the second half, despite playing into the wind, when a clean break from winger Mike Burnett allowed flanker Max Woodward to finish.
Reeling from the pace at which Clifton had re-started Drybrook struggled to contain the Lavender back-line as winger Reuben Caven took his season’s try tally to ten when he finished a well-structured move in the corner.
The momentum shifted in the 50th minute as the visitors edged their way into the Clifton 22 with their typical brawn. Several penalties conceded by the hosts saw the men in green’s pack trundle towards the whitewash.
For near on twenty minutes a resurgent Drybrook battered the Clifton line only to be repelled by a steadfast defence determined not to be breached.
With the wind preventing any worthwhile kick to touch Clifton reverted to a gamble of turning over the ball and running it out of their 22. With Drybrook’s energy sapped by their relentless period of pressure the gamble paid off as Roberts again broke free and this time went the length of the pitch to score.
Unwilling to go quietly into the night, from the kick-off Drybrook went long and again settled back into an attacking stance just metres from the Clifton try-line frantically pushing for a consolation score. Clifton’s patience without the ball though finally won out and as another green attack faltered Goddard claimed possession of the ball to push out 40 metres and off-load to Roberts to grab his third.
Allen Williams added his fourth set of extras for the afternoon.
A brave and resilient Drybrook continued to flex their muscles to the very end, but without any tangible outcome.
Final score 43-0
Disappointingly the GRFU had failed to provide an actual cup to present which seemed rather ironic given the title of the competition, but overall a convincing win for the Wanderers which seals a season double and caps off a great year for the side.
There were stand out performances from Roberts, Woodward, Bellak and back row Matt Saer, but it was exciting young prospect Sam Boyland who picked up the Clifton Sausage Man of the Match Award.
Thanks to all the supporters for being so vocal on the day and for standing by the team this year.
DENTON, GOMPELS, MCGRATH, BARR, CHIDDLE, SAER, WOODWARD, GODDARD, BOYLAND, BELLAK, BURNETT, GIBBS, ROBERTS, CAVEN, WILLIAMS
BROWN (MCGRATH 30mins), BECK (SAER 45mins), O'RIELLY (BOYLAND 50mins), HELPS (BARR 45mins), FRASER (CAVEN 48mins), PHELPS (BURNETT 49mins)
Virgo, Auker-Howlett C, Suter, Smith, James, Rugman, Hale, Moore, Auker-Howlett K, Milner (Capt), Freeman, Holdsworth, Lewis, Roberts, Bleddyn-Evans
Warren, Large, Knight
Referee: Stuart Brain (Bristol Society)