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Home > News > Rosslyn Park 23 - Clifton 21
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Your News Rosslyn Park 23 - Clifton 21

National 2 South

Park knew that revitalised Clifton would be among their toughest opposition, but sitting on a 23-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining they certainly didn’t bargain on anything this tough. Having said that, the final Clifton conversion was with the last kick of the match, well into added time, so Park were not in real danger of actually losing. That’s not how it seemed at the start. Playing with a strong wind behind them Clifton threw everything at the home side for the first 10 minutes. Park had great difficulty winning any ball and every time they kicked the ball clear, back it came. Superb committed tackling and defensive organisation somehow kept the visitors out, and without conceding a penalty. If it wasn’t exactly what the Park faithful had come to see, it was defending of the highest order and a credit to the players and coaches. Eventually fly half Ross Laidlaw cleared the decks with – against the wind – a mighty boot. Given the ball, Park immediately looked dangerous. A super move created a two man overlap but alas somehow the two men were the locks rather than a winger!

Clifton cleared, but immediately knocked on and from the restart Morgan Jones nearly put fellow flanker Jon Underwood in. Back went Clifton, but they erred when Alex Cadwallader leapt to catch his own defender’s clearance kick and was tackled before he landed. The penalty gave Laidlaw a 15th minute penalty, brilliantly slotted over in the conditions, for a 3-0 lead well against the run of play. With the elements in their favour, the visitors continued to enjoy the lion’s share of territory and possession, winning a penalty that was sliced wide by John Barnes. However, Park still looked dangerous with the ball; Anthony Fenner made a super break but Park knocked on 10 metres out. Clifton offended at the scrum and from Graham Barr’s quick tap free-kick Rob Jewell was nearly sent in; he was held up but the next phase saw Barr finish off the move he had started with a super try, Laidlaw converting for 10-0 after 25 minutes. Clifton tried to come back and Barnes missed another penalty chance, but Park were now perceptibly wresting control of the play. Several good moves tested the visiting defence and it was Clifton defending with a degree of desperation. The breakthrough came with a clattering tackle on prop Nick Huggett. There is a fine line between a “good hit” and “dangerous” and this one crossed it. The penalty was fair enough, but the yellow card that reduced the visitors numbers to 14 looked a tad harsh. That didn’t concern Laidlaw who stroked over the penalty for 13-0 on 37 minutes. There was just time for Clifton to gain another penalty, which they ran without success and they finished the half with a drop goal attempt that smacked more of desperation than conviction. The visitors looked heavy-legged as they trudged off, having given everything, had more of the play and yet still failed to score a point. Clifton had the first real attack after the break, hacking through but failing to control the ball. When a Clifton player caught his own man’s kick in an offside position, Laidlaw hammered the ball up field. A good move from wing to wing saw Cadwallader pushed into touch. Park were now looking a constant threat. A massive attack brought a penalty in front of the posts and Laidlaw stretched the lead to 16-0 after 51 minutes. The fly half then thumped another massive kick to the corner, resulting in Underwood nearly scoring. He then threw a long pass to Fenner,

who couldn’t make the line himself but found Chris Simmons outside him for a superb try, matched by Laidlaw’s touchline conversion. At 23-0 after 58 minutes Park looked set to go all out for the bonus point. Substitutions brought fresh legs and perhaps it was players switching position that led to confusion, but when a move broke down the defence seemed to have lost its shape. Clifton replacement Pomphrey picked up the ball and simply galloped away more or less unmolested for a simple score that he converted himself. That looked like a temporary glitch and Park formed up to attack again but almost from the off a loose pass was grabbed by Clifton winger Rob Viol and he was away and under the posts, Pomphrey’s conversion taking the visitors within sniffing distance of a bonus point with marginally more than 10 minutes left. Suddenly

they were energised again. Park had to forget any bonus points they might have been thinking of 2 minutes earlier and just concentrate on keeping the 4 points for a win. This they did without complication until the last play of the match. There were sighs of relief all round as Underwood rampaged up field, but the flanker was left isolated. Clifton turned over possession and charged towards the Park line, releasing a peach of a pass to centre Andrew Bell who crashed over for the losing bonus point. The conversion ended the match at 23-21, and even the most optimistic Park supporter must now realise that promotion is not going to be handed out on a plate. Clifton will beat a lot of good sides this season.

Park: Simmons (O’Driscoll); Cadwallader, Sweeney, Jewell, Fenner

(Pugh); Laidlaw; Barr; Huggett (Millard), Ritchie (Blemings), Collier;

Quigley (Gates), A Jones; M Jones, Underwood, Lock.

Park scorers: Barr (T), Simmons (T), Laidlaw (3P, 2C).

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