Victorious Wanderers Edge Closer to League Title at Dings
Wanderers beat Dings Knights in tight encounter to tighten their grip on the top of the League.
Clifton travelled to Landseer Avenue this week all too aware of the challenge awaiting them, but buoyed by the knowledge that a win would mathematically enhance their chances of becoming League Champions.
Second row James Brogden returned to the pack alongside Matt Saer at blind-side flanker both having missed the previous weeks win against Cinderford. In the backs Bristol Academy scrum-half Sam Boyland made is starting debut and there were also returns for centres Ben Breeze, Luke Blizzard and full-back Gareth Mason.
Anticipating the home side’s usual brand of fire and passion Clifton opened with a sustained barrage of possession and tactical kicking which pegged Dings well into their 22. The visitors were swiftly rewarded with a penalty directly under the posts which Blizzard despatched to draw first blood.
Clifton fed off the lack of structure from a startled Dings and an impressive opening performance by the Lavender pack in scrum set up the first try of the afternoon after a break down the blind-side allowed Mason to create a two on one and feed winger Mike Burnett who ran in from 40 yards.
Again the visitors set the pace in the confined surroundings of a smaller pitch and it wasn’t long before Ding’s ill-disciplined offered Blizzard another chance of 3 points and take Clifton into double figures.
The Knights found their way back into the game and slowly began to pound their way into the Clifton half but a controversial decision in the 20th minute by the Referee exasperated their efforts.
As a Clifton player attempted to retreat back onside as the ball was played Dings appeared to stop and waited for an obstructive off-side whistle that never came, whilst Wanderers captain Josh Goddard hacked the ball through and gathered his kick over the line.
Angered by Clifton’s apparent rub of the green Dings resolved to get a score on the board before half-time and as the penalty pendulum swung the other way the home side played out the last of the second quarter in the Wanderers 22.
Sure enough after peppering the corners with penalty kicks the Dings pack claimed a score back after a driving line-out and some neat pick and go work allowed their flanker to barrel over and make the score 5 -16 going into the break.
The second half predictably started with the momentum again favouring the Knights whose last score spurred them on into Wanderers territory for much of a scrappy third quarter.
Clifton’s defence remained firm though as wave after wave of blue and black assaults were broken or turned over.
After weathering the storm for much of the second half the visitors gradually picked away at the Dings back three with long range kicks that they struggled to return with any interest and allowed the men in Lavender to force the gain line up the pitch.
With Dings now with their backs to the wall Clifton sensed an opportunity kill off the game and a penalty kick to the corner allowed fly-half Jack Hughes to launch his back-line en masse and after some quick hands substitute winger Reuben Caven finished the move in the corner.
Blizzard converted the extras leaving Dings with a mountain to climb for the final 15 minutes.
The Knights as predicted did their best to have the final say and launch one last siege of the Clifton 22, but again they were frustrated by a stoic Clifton defence determined not to be breached.
Final score 5 – 23.
A well fought and well contested Clifton Dings derby which saw the Lavender & Blacks claim their third victory over the Knights this year in all competitions.
Hooker Ben Gompels was rewarded with the M-O-M award after his impressive shift, but there were noticeable performances as well from prop Ross Denton, flanker Tom Beck and Mason at full-back.
The win solidifies Clifton’s place at the top of the Reserve Premier League and all but guarantees them the title going into their final few games of the campaign.