Old Albanian inflict heavy defeat on Clifton

CLIFTON became the sixth National Two South league side this season to find themselves of the wrong end of an Old Abanian 50-point hammering on Saturday.

But the Bristol outfit provided stiff opposition in the first half to prevent the home side running away with an even bigger haul as it finished 51-19.

The bonus point for four tries helped to move OAs to within three points of league leaders, Richmond, who fought out a bonus-free win against third-placed Worthing.

OAs’ director of rugby, James Shanahan, said of Clifton: “They had done their homework on our style of play and prevented several of our planned moves gaining momentum.”

This coupled with some changes of personnel since the clubs last met in early November (only eight of that day’s squad survived) and an enormous pack led by try-scoring No.8, Harrison Tovey, proved a handful for OAs, particularly in the first half.

However, the home side tackled and harried like demons to maintain their position as leading points-difference holders in the league (515: nearest contender Richmond with a modest 401), pulled further away from Worthing (102 points against 93) and, with his first and only penalty of the afternoon after 23 minutes, subsequent try and four conversions, Richard Gregg became joint-top point scorer in the league with 253.

There was a welcome back for Marc Comb, who had spent some months nursing a leg injury and a promising debut off the bench for newcomer, scrum half Keiron Davies, as he replaced Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier on 55 minutes.

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A try in your first game and after only four minutes on the pitch does not happen to everybody. Bruzulier himself scored the game’s first try after Gregg’s penalty had opened the scoring after 23 minutes.

And for that time Clifton had the lion’s share of possession and position as they shook the Woollams side into ceding five penalties in these opening minutes.

The home side thought that their second try, scored and converted by Gregg, would give a comfortable 15-0 half-time margin until Clifton’s, James Golledge, seized on an OA error and ran in under the posts for Ben Roberts, to convert on 38 minutes.

Roused, the home side pounded the Clifton line for Andrew Daish to outflank the cover and score in the corner.

Gregg’s conversion from wide out missed and the half-time score was a less attractive 20-7.

The break allowed OAs to put a little more pace and precision on their passing and after only four minutes of the second period Ollie Marchon, who had been causing his opposite number all sorts of grief, again slipped his marker and sped to the line.

With the bonus point, Gregg’s conversion and a 20-point margin OAs near-fatally relaxed to allow Tovey to score from what looked like a forward movement of the ball. Roberts again converted to 27-14.

It’s a sure sign that the opposition are tiring when Lombaard starts to find open spaces; for the first part of the game he is mainly immersed in tacklers as he takes the heat off the rest of the three-quarter line.

This time, a good break and tidy inter-passing with hooker Wes Cope saw Lombaard further extend the lead with Gregg’s kick to 34-14.

Six minutes later, Davies scored his opening try and Gregg’s conversion extended the margin of lead to 27 points.

There was still some gas left in the Clifton motor as after OAs conceded a free-kick. JJ Kilmartin, made ground on the right and fed winger James Stark for his side’s final try.

Andrew Daish scored his second of the afternoon with a one-handed plant in the corner after the tireless Ollie Cooper-Millar had won a lineout on Clifton’s five-metre line.

The final cheer of the afternoon came as substitute Luke O’Keeffe made a 30-metre break upfield to feed Shanahan to score and breech the 50-point mark.

As Shanahan and his squad review the match video this week, that first 20 minutes should be of particular concern, specifically Clifton’s can-do attitude, the number of penalties conceded as a result and the lack of crispness in the passing compared with the second half.

With no match on Saturday, an interesting trip to Redruth beckons in a fortnight. Their visit to Woollams resulted in them becoming one of the six 50-point victims and at their ground with its legendary ‘hell-fire corner’ and with their tradition of proper Cornish revenge, they may prove difficult to beat.