CLIFTON 17 CANTERBURY 39
Canterbury tightened their grip on the promotion play-off spot with a commanding and inventive performance which saw them move seven points clear of the chasing pack. Sharp in attack and organised in defence they scored the first of their five tries in the opening minute and rarely looked back.
There were mental as well physical challenges for the city side to overcome at a ground where they last tasted success eleven years ago. By the end of a dominant second half all those uneasy memories were history.
They made the perfect start as wing Charlie Grimes broke away from his marker and sent Dan Smart over for a try which Ollie Best converted. There were hurdles to overcome, however, before Canterbury could build on that, not least when they went into the second quarter minus skipper Sean Stapleton who was sin binned for a high tackle. By that point Clifton had replied through Tom Francis’s unconverted try, after heavy forward pressure and a perfectly weighted kick from fly half John Barnes. An Ollie Best penalty goal kept Canterbury narrowly ahead but it was the expert way they managed the next ten minutes that marked their quality. Clifton could make nothing of their extra man and a minute before the break Canterbury hit them with a lovely individual try. Fly half Harvey Young popped through a gap on half way and out paced the chasers.
Best’s conversion opened a twelve point lead and it took only three minutes of the second half for them to push further ahead. Clifton spilled the ball, Sam Sterling hoofed it downfield and Grimes, outstanding in all he did, chased it down for the score. Best added another two points and Clifton had neither the pace nor the guile to change the course of the match. They did get the next score as Mark Roberts burrowed over to reward his pack’s pressure, and Barnes converted, but Canterbury ruled the rest of the game. A surging, unstoppable maul which rolled 22 metres brought Tristan King the bonus point try. Best added the conversion and his second penalty goal and the only interruption was an enterprising kick and chase score for Clifton four minutes before the end by Mitch Spencer. There was still enough time for Canterbury to build the phases nicely before Ricky Mackintosh was presented with a one on one situation. There was only one winner, the wingman and an excellent city side.