Brave Cents Cross’d Out by Wanderers
Tough 52-34 Win in Gloucester Maintains Clifton's Undefeated Record
A brace of scores from Centre Mike Cross secured a twelfth consecutive victory for the Wanderers as they travelled to central Gloucester to face a strong Old Centralians XV.
Clifton welcomed the return of prop Ben Christie who returned from a broken foot sustained against Cinderford.
Cents looked a much changed outfit from the side that suffered a heavy loss at Station Rd back in October and appeared even more highly motivated by the fact that they had not played since November.
The early exchanges saw both sides, not unsurprisingly, struggle to blow the Christmas cobwebs away and likewise formulate a game plan to capitalise on the sloping pitch and high winds.
Knock ons and turn overs by both teams dominated the first quarter and it wasn’t until Cents lost control of the ball on the deck and Clifton No.8 Josh Goddard was able to break free and launch the first convincing attack into the home sides 22. Thwarted by his own feet though Goddard tripped just sort of scoring, however a swift off load allowed the supporting Christie to jog over to score.
A full scrummaging session against the 1st XV earlier began to pay dividends as the Lavender and Black’s pack repeatedly pressurised the Gloucester side’s forwards at the set-piece.
Cents appeared to have little answer as Clifton racked up two more quick scores, the first coming from stand-in scrum-half Mike Burnett on his debut. Looking up from a turned over ruck Burnett spotted a gap in behind the defence and deft kick over top that he gathered himself on the try line edged the visitors forward.
Another break from Goddard allowed centre Jack Watters to make hard yards into the Cents backline and off load to Cross who’s pace carried him out around the opposition winger to touch down for his first of the afternoon.
Cents drew one back as missed tackles allowed them to make a clean line-break and score out wide.
Clifton now into third gear, brought a sustained kicking game to bear and after maintaining a presence in the Cents’ 22 second row Royce Chiddle barrelled over from 8 yards out.
It was the Gloucester side’s error which allowed Clifton the score that should have put the game out of sight. A knock on in the mid-field was gathered up by Cross whose quick pass to Watters allowed him to feed full-back Tom Bellak, who cut a lovely line to wrong foot the defence and score. Winger Allen Williams converted the extras.
The home side were determined though not to go into the night quietly and as Clifton eased their foot off the gas, Cents were rewarded with a try on the stroke of half time to make the score 12-33.
Centralian’s score before the break appeared to galvanise them and as a result they drew first blood in second half almost immediately from the kick-off. The score appeared to stun the visitor’s momentum and allowed the men in blue and gold the opportunity to camp in the Clifton half. The visitors suddenly found themselves the victims of several swift penalties for alleged infringements at the break down and after a period of 5 minutes of continuous pick and goes Cents hammered their way over the line.
With the score line narrowed to 11 points and all of the decisions going against them, Clifton found themselves under-pressure again as Centralians continued to go on the offensive, but the visitors hit back against the run of play with their first meaningful attack of the half.
A turnover in their own 22 allowed the back line to release Bellak whose pace allowed him to break the Cents’ line and combine with Cross who despite nursing an injury appeared in support of the attack to finish. Veteran Fly-half Ben Breeze coolly slotted the extras.
Centralians struck from the kick off again allowing them to claim back yet another try under the posts which kept their hopes alive. But aspirations of a full scale comeback were snuffed out when Goddard again burst into their half and off loaded out of a last ditch tap tackle to Bellak in support who darted over.
The final 10 minutes proved frantic as Cents battled to finish within a losing bonus point margin whilst Clifton sought to finally insert the nail into the Gloucester men’s coffin.
It fell to Captain Henry Mace to assist in delivering the final blow as a quick turn over allowed the flanker draw the defence and locate the rampaging Goddard with a neat pass. Goddard’s feet finally stayed true to him and he dived over from close range.
A gallant final surge from Cents awarded them a consolation score to claim the accolade of tries and most points scored against the Wanderers this season. The final score 34 -52.
Cross, who despite injury played a key role in attack claimed the M-O-M award. Special mentions were made of Mike Burnett for stepping into the breach at scrum-half, but also of the forward pack’s efforts at the set-piece in difficult conditions.
All credit to Old Centralians whose direct and physical game made for a great game of rugby and who asked a lot of questions about the visitors resolve and character.
The victory continues the season’s unbeaten run and takes the Clifton’s sides points scored total to over 500 league points.
Next week the Wanderers host Matson at Station Rd. Matson arrive off the back of a possible fortune turning win at Whitehall last week.
All spectators welcome.
The Wanderers march on.