Wanderers Batter Cents To Book Cup Final Place
Wanderers 85 - 7 Old Centralians
The Wanderers claimed a League Cup Final place with a comprehensive victory over Old Centralians at Station Rd.
With the ongoing three-quarters injury crisis there were plenty of changes in the back line. There was a welcome return to the side for Scrum-half Mike O'Reilly whose appearance allowed Alex Haynes to step into the number 10 shirt. Top scorer Luke Blizzard returned to inside centre whilst former League winner Pete Thompson stepped in to make his first appearance for the Wanderers in 2 years.
There were changes too in the pack as player-coach Scott McGrath stepped into tighthead and flanker Ben Helps opened in the number 7 shirt.
Clifton went into the game anticipating the hostile weather and an equally tough Cents performance, especially as the Gloucester side came into the fixture with the accolade as being the only side to rack up over 30 points against the League Champions previously.
Patience and clinical finishing were the order of the day and it wasn't long before the home side were rewarded as Blizzard crossed over on the blind side after some neat pick and go work from the Clifton pack.
No.8 and Captain Josh Goddard extended the lead into double figures just after 15mins when he broke free from the back of a line out almost unopposed.
Blizzard himself turned the screw and added his second score after Thompson had broken free down the wing and passed in field.
It was Thompson again who capitalised this time on a break from full-back Sam Phelps before he too finished neatly under the post on the half hour mark.
Thompson's score appeared to galvanise a shell shocked Cents side who finally began to claw back some possession and territory, forcing Clifton back into their own 22 and forcing the Lavender & Blacks to play out.
Cents pack sensed an opportunity and suddenly the home side found themselves under the kosh. Patience without the ball again paid off though and after a turn over on their own line Clifton gradually found a way out of their red zone with a break by Phelps again, who after 40 yards fed Blizzard on his inside to go over for his hat-trick and put the game beyond the visitors.
33-0 at the break.
Clifton resolved to reset the score board to 0-0 at half time and retain the quality of performance they demanded.
Sure enough young rising star Sam Boyland off the bench at 9 swiftly answered the call finishing off a rare break down the blind side by veteran prop Ross Denton.
Skipper Goddard again began to rampage through the visitor's defence this time to tee-up Helps who dived over to score out wide.
Again Cents threatened through their pack and the hard running of their mid-field but this time the attack offered more impetus and after pounding at the Lavender line the Blue and Gold number 12 barreled over from close range.
Whilst Old Centralians began to suffer from injuries and tidal wave wave of Lavender attacks, Clifton's demand for clinical finishing remained firm as winger Reuben Caven crossed over after yet another Phelps break.
Clifton made multiple interchanges which saw debutants Cal Roberts and Sam Smith step into the back line with immediate affect as both ended scoring moves set in motion by Boyland, the pick of which went to Smith as he gathered an over the head pass from the young replacement scrum-half to go under the posts.
Smith quickly added his second after yet another mercurial line break by Goddard who was gifted with multiple support options.
It was a brace of scores from Phelps that sealed the Cents coffin, first with his neat carving of the line following an assist from Haynes and lastly through his support of the marauding Goddard who once again broke free to give the feed the veteran full-back.
Blizzard converted the extras to take his individual tally for the afternoon to 35 points.
Final score 85-7.
A commanding 13 try haul carries the Wanderers into the Final and the team will be most pleased with how they executed the game plan in the early stages as well as finish off almost all of the chances offered.
It was Goddard who picked up the M-O-M award for his exemplary leadership and attacking threat all game, but there were performances of note also from Royce Chiddle, Helps and Phelps, not to mention the potent 10 / 12 partnership of Haynes and Blizzard.
Special mentions to the debutants and youngsters who gelled well into a side that had only taken shape late in the week after 1s call ups and extensive injuries.
The Wanderers march on, this time into a inaugural League Cup Final against the winner of Drybrook and Dings Knights. Date TBC.
Many thanks to all the supporters.