Clifton coped better with the blustery conditions and being reduced to 14 men for 50 minutes of the game to defeat a lacklustre Birmingham & Solihull side 31-22 at Station Road, much to the frustration of Head of Rugby Pete Glackin.
With the prospect of playing downhill against 14 men in the second half, the visitors would have fancied their chances of overcoming a 12-8 half time deficit to record their second win of the season. Instead, Clifton scored three unanswered tries in 20 minutes to take a 31-8 lead and the game away from the Bees.
When Pete Glackin’s side finally woke up and started to play some rugby, they scored two tries in a five-minute spell to spark hopes of an unlikely comeback, but Clifton had the power and the patience to see out the game.
Playing with the wind but against the slope in the first half, things started badly for the Bees with a try for winger Bentley Halpin after nine minutes. A yellow card for Nathan Tilsley for taking out Halpin in the air further rubbed salt in the wound.
The lead was extended to 12-0 eight minutes later when No.8 Alfie To’ala crashed over from a 5-metre scrum, Brad Barnes able to convert the extras this time.
However, Clifton shot themselves in the foot on the 27-minute mark when prop Callum Simpson was red carded for foul play. Bees’ prop Kurtis Payne was yellow carded for his part in the hiatus. Jack Jolly got the visitors on the scoreboard from the ensuing penalty and further Bees’ pressure yielded a try for full-back Tilsley three minutes from the break, to cut the deficit to just 4 points.
Clifton were able to regroup and camped themselves in the Bees’ 22 for a good chunk of the second period. Sustained pressure at the scrum earned Nick Bingham – making a welcome return in a Bees’ shirt – a yellow card. With playing numbers evened out at least temporarily, tries from Alex Lambert, Chris Levseley and - the pick of the bunch – Will Pomphrey, with two conversions from Barnes, left the visitors visibly shell-shocked.
An emptying of the bench helped spur on a mini rival – a second score for Tilsley and a try for Luke Smith, both converted by Jolly, showed that this game had been there for the taking had the Bees played with similar levels of skill and intensity across the other 75 minutes of the game. Something that the players would have time to contemplate on, what one would imagine, was a fairly subdued coach trip back up the M5 on Saturday evening.
The loss leaves the Bees second from bottom in National League 2 South. Next Saturday (20th October KO 7.30pm), the mode of transport changes to an airplane, as the squad head off shore to play Guernsey for the first time in the club’s history. They will be hoping for a better return on investment in the Channel islands than was achieved from their trip to Bristol this weekend.
Bees v Clifton: 1. Joe Foreman, 2. Alex Willis 3. Kurtis Payne (YC), 4. Danny Wright, 5. Andy Weaver, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Marcus Brown, 8. Umraan Jadwat, 9. Jack Jolly (P, 2C), 10. Ollie Walker, 11. Matt Dight, 12. Adam Nunney, 13. Dan Kelly, 14. Luke Smith, 15. Nathan Tilsley (2T).
Replacements: 16. Nick Bingham (YC), 17. Nick Rigby, 18. Matt Spink, 19. Sean O’Sullivan, 20. Steve Johns. Referee:- Robert Bourke.