Clifton's flair is beaten down by dour opponents
CLIFTON travelled home with two deserved bonus points, but they were a little unlucky not to maintain their unbeaten record on the Cambridgeshire's club ground.
The game was probably decided in the opening quarter when Shelford's forwards had complete control and denied the visitors any decent possession.
Straight from the start, the home side launched a succession of forward drives which took play to the visitors' line. Clifton held out only until the fifth minute when flanker Simon Billows forced his way over from close range for an unconverted try.
From the restart Shelford's fired-up pack again took play to Clifton by the use of grinding rugby on a wet pitch.
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They were awarded a scrum at which Clifton were penalised, but Shelford chose not to kick for goal but instead mounted a series of close-range scrums that led eventually to one of the Clifton props being sin-binned. The home side then claimed their reward as scrum-half Charlie Baker broke from the base of an attacking scrum to score.
The restart also went awry for Clifton with home No 8 Ali Lea making a searing break from deep in his own half and, when faced with one man to beat, passing the ball to Billows who raced over for his second try.
The pattern of the game changed when Clifton finally began to win worthwhile possession. A high-risk brand of rugby, played at speed, tested the Shelford defence with pinpoint passing and excellent off-loading eventually bringing a touchdown,
Play was taken down the right touchline and after centre Sam Harrison had been thwarted, No 8 John Levis was on hand to score close to the corner,
More was to come when scrum-half Callum Braley took a short penalty on halfway and passed to winger Ben Roberts, who raced to the posts to score a try which took him past 100 points for the season. He also landed the conversion.
Clifton kept up the pressure, but could not score again before the break. However, they went ahead for the first time at the start of the second half when fly-half Brad Barnes marked his best display for the club with an outside break from the 10-metre line that left four defenders in his wake as he scored out wide.
Shelford replied immediately as Gerhard Wessels went over, with fellow centre Richard Brady adding the extras. The home pressure was maintained and Lea went over with Brady converting.
The final quarter saw Clifton in charge and Barnes grabbed his second – and the bonus-point try – when he chased a kick ahead into the corner to touch down
Flanker James Stephenson was deemed to have been held up over the line as Clifton thought they had managed a fifth try, then good defence and worsening ground conditions prevented them from adding to their points total.