Remembering how we struggled on the previous occasion to play anything resembling rugby in the first half, we thought that we would stick with exactly the same plan. So, after all of the Christmas festivities & having not seen a pair of trainers, let alone a rugby ball for a few weeks, we decided to reward most of the QEH boys and send them on a sleep over. A few others followed suit & we were soon in our rhythm.... 10am and 4 people warming up, 3 putting their boots on, the remainder were on their way & I think Jude was still in bed.
Cleve came out firing, out playing us at the break down & even our normal strength at the scrum was letting us down. Fortunately, we'd searched the database of Clifton registered players, filtered it for anyone sensible/awake and it came up with Barney Shiu, who returned to excellent effect and we minimised Cleve's dominance to one score.
The effects of all this running around and scrummaging was obviously not what we all had in mind after too many mince pies. Jake Kirkham then did the honourable thing: he put in a huge tackle, stood up, fell over & then started rolling around. We're not yet sure whether he injured himself in the tackle, or when he fell over afterwards, but the good news is it gave us all a bit of a rest while he was seen to. On a serious note, Jake has suffered a nasty dislocation & he'll likely be out for most of the rest of the season. We all wish you a speedy recovery, you've made a massive impact since joining and we look forward to seeing you soon - please let us know as soon as you're fit enough to carry the water bottles :)
With play proceeding, there was a huge cheer from both sides when the referee announced it was uncontested. For a while, both sides assumed this applied to line-outs, mauls, rucks, tackling, catching, passing and running straight & its fair to say the rest of the game was pretty rubbish, so the highlights are in brief below :
- Fielding our best & biggest front row of the season in Ahmed, Will Lang & Jamie Hazelby... the surprise on their faces!
- Tries from Ralph & two from Elliot
- Watching Arran fall over in clear space... is the 1st team pitch not flat enough for you?
- A man of the match performance from Barney Shiu
- Billy finally getting pinged by the referee for taking a week to take a conversion
- Try celebration of the season so far.... having realised slightly sooner than Cleve that the rucks were contested, Clifton secured second phase ball near their own 22. Westy's right boot was tired, so he shipped on to Barney, with a step and break, we were over the gain line & Cleve's defence was scrambling. Neat offload to Matt Cherry, who fed Alex on the 10m line. With a simple outside break, it was time to step on the gas & test out the pace. 1st man beaten, slip it into 4th down the touch line... penultimate covering defender seen off, smoothly through 5th and into top gear, full back dispatched over the line, round to the posts, left foot, right foot, 3 - 2 - 1 and we have take off! Arm in the air, graceful landing, win secured!
It was a dog of a game, but given we drew at the end of last season 40-40 with Cleve and as the home side failed to progress in the cup, to record 2 wins over one of our closest rivals is a great result. Credit to Cleve, they're a good bunch of lads, played for the full game and I am sure we will both enjoy playing each other in the games to come.