Wanderers Shoot Down Stags
Cross Hat-Trick Helps Wanderers To Key League Win
A Mike Cross hat-trick sealed a significant win for the Wanderers in the GRFU Premier Reserve League against third place Cinderford Stags.
Clifton found themselves without hooker Matt Saer and prop Ben Christie, but welcomed back to the side Ben Gompels to the number 2 shirt and Jack Hughes to fly-half after a long injury lay-off. There were Wanderers debuts for Tom Beck at six, whilst young scrum-half Sam Boyland and second row Ben Weigman warmed the bench.
Uncharacteristically Cinderford were only able to must a bare 15 and were very much a changed team from the side that put up stiff resistance in the Forrest back in October.
Much like October though Clifton launched themselves out of the blocks at a pace the Forresters found incapable of living with and within 3 minutes the newcomer Beck had crossed the line for the first of Clifton’s 10 try haul.
Clifton’s domination at the scrum started to become apparent and the front row combination of Denton, Gompels and McGrath began to stamp their authority on the set-piece.
Minutes later top try scorer Mike Cross gathered a neat chip through from full-back Tom Bellak and darted over. Winger Allen Williams converted the extras for the second time.
It was Cross again who continued to harass the Cinderford defence after the Clifton forwards had stolen a line-out and centre Jack Watters had smashed his way through to feed Cross for his double and take the home side into a comfortable 21-0 win after just 15 minutes.
The Stags back line seemed unable to gain parity against their Lavender counterparts and the first quarter ended with Williams himself touching down after being fed by Cross out wide.
It wasn’t until the 30th minute that Cinderford finally retained enough possession of the ball to work their way into the Clifton 22. Several penalties and kicks to the corner aided a relentless barrage of pick and carries that allowed enough space for the Stags fly-half to wriggle through and score.
However Cinderford’s hard work came at a high cost as they lost one their number 1 to the bin for a fracas on the deck and their number 8 to an injury. Clifton likewise lost No.8 Mike Barber to the bin.
Clifton settled back into the flow as Cross sealed his hat-trick after again breaking free of the red and gold defence following a quick ruck.
Whilst Cross claimed the headline score it was left to winger Mike Burnett whose brace of scores just before and after halftime notched up a significant milestone for the Clifton side and taking them beyond 600 league points scored this season.
Burnett’s first came from finishing off a break by skipper Henry Mace to score. His second from a well-structured phase of play in which the hosts had stretched the visitors from touchline to touchline.
Cinderford grabbed back another rare score after a brief moment of luck when their 13 stabbed a kick through the mid-field only for it to rebound off a Clifton shin and sit up perfectly for the Stag’s fly-half to claim his second of the day.
Not to be outdone by his centre partner, Jack Watters added his name to the score sheet after a break that saw the number 12 carry for virtually the length of the pitch to go over.
Despite being dealt another yellow card and having to spend another 10mins with only 13 men on the pitch Cinderford rallied themselves and still managed to score from a catch-and-drive deep in Clifton’s half.
The score though only served to enrage the hosts and increase their strangle hold on the game as both Bellak, now on the wing and Barber notched up late scores.
There were a controversial few moments just prior to full-time that saw both Cross himself and substitute full-back Sam Phelps yellow carded for innocuous decisions by the referee, but little could be done to alter the final score.
Final Score 62-19
All credit to Cinderford who continued to offer strong resistance even after spending a significant portion of the game with 13 players.
Cross picked up the M-O-M award for his role in proceedings, but there were also strong acknowledgments all round of young Beck’s shift at blind-side.
Next week see’s the Wanderers march on Landseer Avenue to face arch-rivals Dings Knights in crucial fixture between first and second in the League.
All spectators welcome.