Dominant Old Bristolians show they have too much for Clifton
OLD Bristolians got their Gloucestershire County Cup campaign off to a great start by seeing off local rivals Clifton at Cribbs Causeway in their opening pool match.
The Failand-based side bossed the contest from start to finish and deserved their victory.
Such was their dominance, Clifton only managed one visit into Bristolians' 22 during the entire match.
But despite dominating field position, and enjoying the lion's share of possession, the visitors were restricted to just two first-half tries, thanks to a superb defensive effort by their hosts.
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The sides looked well-matched on the surface, and could not be separated in terms of determination, effort and commitment.
But Clifton were without a number of key personnel, while the visitors possessed the game's most influential players.
Centre Callum Roberts was rock-solid in both attack and defence for his side, and caused Clifton problems every time his was brought into the game.
Roberts gave his pack a target at which to aim in the wider channels, and was always willing to carry the fight to Clifton.
But it was Redd Smith, in the key decision-making position of scrum-half, that really set the game alight.
The lively half-back displayed all the craft and trickery of a seasoned veteran, and, especially during the first half, was simply irresistible.
Smith had a hand in setting up the opening try for winger Luke Matthews, before producing the moment of the match, when he ran in long-range solo try from 60 metres, which earned him a applause and nods of approval from both sets of supporters. Old Bs pressed from the kick-off, but found the home side's defence a tough nut to crack, although wing Will Bamber and skipper James Bolton-Jones went close.
The visitors kept up the pressure with No 8 Calum Bluck driving hard to give his team some impetus, but good work at the contact area, especially from centre Ed Tait, who normally packs down at No 8, kept the visitors at bay. Bristolians got the breakthrough after 22 minutes, following a scrum on the Clifton 22-metre line.
Smith broke left and fed Roberts, who in one silky movement, shipped the ball onto Matthews, who then sprinted clear to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try.
Clifton were by no means out of the game, but were unable to sustain any real pressure in their opponents half.
Bristolians extended their advantage with one of the tries of the season. From a line-out ten-metres inside their own half, the ball was won against the Clifton throw, and slapped down on the Old Bs side.
As the Clifton forwards poured through, Smith scooped up the bobbling ball on the run, sold a dummy, as if to pass it to his fly-half, and set off on a winding run that saw him leave a trail of mesmerised opponents in his wake for a memorable try.
Roberts converted to make it 12-0 at the turnaround.
The game continued to flow in the second half, with referee David Jones allowing both sides an opportunity to express themselves.
Old Bs continued to pile on the pressure, and a lesser team would have surely buckled under the unrelenting onslaught from the green machine.
But with 15 minutes remaining, Clifton were rewarded for their efforts when centre Chris Welsh crashed over from a quickly taken tapped penalty for a try converted by James Floyd during Clifton's one and only visit into the visitors 22.
The late score brought the home side to within five-points, and set up a tense final few minutes, but it was Bs that deservedly took the spoils.