Variety proves to be instrumental as Dings come out on top in derby
DINGS Crusaders came out on top in this highly-entertaining derby at a hot and sunny Landseer Avenue.
Dings started the better of the two sides and were good value for their ten-point winning margin. Stean Williams dominated at the breakdown, winning multiple turnovers, during his man-of-the-match performance at open-side flanker.
Mark Woodrow was also highly influential as he controlled proceedings from the pivotal fly-half berth. And when the teams began to wilt under the blazing heat, the home side's bench provided greater impact, with prop Josh Lloyd and hooker Dave Wheeler entering the fray in the final quarter to add zest and enthusiasm, and some much-needed front-row stability.
Clifton had their moments, but they were fleeting. The visitors struggled to retain possession for any length of time, due to handling errors and the competitive nature of Williams and company at the contact area.
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Clifton enjoyed their best spell of the match ten-minutes either side of half-time, and showed what they are capable of when they get their game going. But, in truth, it was the home side that held the upper hand for the majority of the contest.
Crusaders wing Taylor Stevens opened the scoring after 15 minutes when he reacted quickest to Woodrow's neat grubber-kick into the in-goal area. Woodrow landed the touchline conversion and added two further penalties to open up a 13-0 lead.
But Clifton respond on the stroke of half-time when wing Will Pomphrey cantered in under the posts to round off a multi-phase attack. Stand-off Ben Roberts converted to make it 13-7 at the break .
And it was the visitors who claimed the next score to edge into a one-point lead within six minutes of the re-start, when they were awarded a penalty try – Dings flanker Tom Knight was adjudged to have come in from the side to halt an advancing Clifton five-metre driving line-out.
But Clifton were unable to sustain any momentum, and the home side re-established control. Dings pounded away at the Clifton line at close quarters, but might have surprised the visitors as they showed a willingness to mix things up, and attack in the wider channels.
The home side deservedly pulled clear in the last quarter, with an unconverted try from Wheeler, and two successful penalties from the boot of Woodrow.
Dings Crusaders skipper Ed Hack, praised his teams attitude and commitment following their 24-14 home win over Clifton, and believes that his team will only get better. Hack, a former Clifton junior, said: "It's always nice to get that first win under your belt. Last season, although we ran a few team close, we had to wait a while to register that first victory.
"People are trying to gauge how strong Dings and Clifton are this season, compared to last. But all we can do is play the team that's put in front of us. It's far too early to assess the pecking order is in the league, but Clifton pushed Hartpury College close last week, and the students are tipped as promotion candidates.
"I think we may have surprised Clifton today with our attacking variety and intent. We are trying to play a bit more rugby across the whole team, rather than just relying on our pack."
Clifton director of rugby Darren Lloyd offered no excuses after watching his side go down to his former club. The Henbury-based side dominated spells either side of the interval, but came off second best for the best part of an hour.
He said: I'm not going to take anything away from Dings today – they deserved to win. Their set piece creaked a bit in the first half, but they managed to sort it out. Woody (Mark Woodrow) managed the game well and kept them on the front foot. But we made far too many handling errors, and coughed up possession cheaply at times. It's hard to build any momentum when you can't hold onto the ball."
Dings Crusaders: Skelton, Oakley, Gervais, Brooker, Stevens, Woodrow, Gasson, Cooke, Bellamy, Hudd, Buffton, Hack, Knight, Williams, Luck. Replacements: Wheeler, Lloyd, Joyce, Plummer and Dempsey.
Clifton: Williams, Pomphrey, Stevens, Golledge J, Smith S, Roberts, Nicholls, Davis, Fincken, Bullimore, Westlake, Purcell, Schmid, Stephenson, Levis. Replacements: Golledge A, Evans, Smith M and Foley.