Clifton move off bottom of table with fine display for first victory
IN NEAR perfect conditions Clifton recorded their first win of the season and moved away from the foot of the table with an excellent performance.
Both sides were prepared to move the ball at every opportunity which made for an entertaining game which resulted in them sharing eight tries.
However, on the day Clifton continued to show the passion they have demonstrated in earlier games and with the help of an outstanding display from their half-backs fully deserved their victory.
Scrum-half Callum Braley, making his full senior appearance, showed ability to move the ball away from the breakdown at speed and with accuracy.
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This gave his partner Ben Roberts time to release his dangerous backs at every opportunity.
Braley's clever box kicks also kept his pack on the front foot.
Roberts however was the difference between the sides, as when the home pack had the upper hand during the second half the visitors gave away a string of penalties.
Roberts landed four penalties which eventually proved the difference between the two sides.
Lock George Biagi had a good game in the line-out including being at the centre of a try scored from an excellent line-out ploy.
No 8 Matt Salter along with skipper and hooker Paul Fincken cleverly directed the efforts of the pack which gave them the upper hand in the tight forward exchanges.
The pattern of the game was shown in the early exchanges when Clifton powered forward in the third minute and centre Sam Harrison, a late call-up, made a break from 25 metres out and was hauled down by the Southend defence inches short of the line.
The opening try was not long in coming and in the sixth minute after several probes down the blindside centre Will Pomphrey raced 35 metres down the touch line to score an unconverted try.
Southend came back to take the lead after 10 minutes when good work by lock Andrew McLintock enabled fly-half Jack Jones to break clean through the defence for a try he also converted.
Almost immediately Clifton retook the lead (12-5) when a drive instigated by Salter took play to the visitors' line and Harrison was on hand to dive over for a try converted by Roberts.
Southend were having plenty of possession but the home defence prevented them from getting close to the home line.
They regained the lead when winger Danny Cleare after 20 minutes popped up in midfield to cut through to the line from 40 metres with Jones converting, making the score 12-14.
Both sides continued to show enterprise but defences held the upper hand with flankers James Stephenson and Phil Schmid putting in a string of telling tackles.
Southend showed ill discipline and Roberts put Clifton in front 15-14 with a penalty.
He added a second after lock Sam Cook was sent to the sin bin, putting Clifton 18-14 in the lead.
While he was off the field Stephenson and Fincken scored tries one of which Roberts converted to stretch the home side's lead to 30-14.
Roberts knocked over two further penalties to take the lead to 22 points, 36-14
Southend came back in the closing stages and McLintock went over after 71 minutes before Cleare grabbed a bonus point with his second try with two minutes remaining.