Clifton v Hornets
By Nicholas Sproull
Clifton storm into BJC final
Clifton U16s travelled down the M5 to play Weston Hornets in the middle of a storm. As we warmed up the posts on the 4G pitch were being blown almost flat and it was clear that we would have to be smart in countering the conditions as well as our opponents, who were fired up and well-drilled. Add to this the fact that we hadn't played for a while and this could have been a banana-skin game for us.
It wasn't to be though. After absorbing an opening salvo from Hornets with our line intact, the first piece of decent possession showed the difference in the speed of the two sides - a loose ball, a break, and within seconds, instead of grinding towards the line as Hornets had done, we were down the other end of the pitch with a good try for Ryley.
That set the pattern of the match: possession was pretty even; when Hornets had the ball Clifton's defence held firm, and as soon as Clifton were able to release their big runners we scored almost every time. There were regular arm wrestles in the middle of the pitch and, as ever, we were reluctant to commit enough players to the ruck, but once we had the ball in space they had no answer, and further tries followed from George (3), Sam Costley, Sam Read, Dom and Olly Hill. Sam C did an amazing job in converting almost all of the tries, despite the ball bending like a boomerang in the wind.
This was not a perfect performance - we need to compete better for the ball and our handling regularly let us down - but conditions were extremely difficult. We were missing several of our star players and special mention must go to Callum for a man of the match performance, not only in the front row, but also in the loose, and to Sam Read for filling Matt's big boots brilliantly at full-back. Our midfield began to look far more threatening than it has in the past, with Olly and Sam S making some hard yards, Dom regularly caused havoc with his direct running, and of course George was outstanding.
This was an excellent performance and we can now look forward to the final against Dings.