First XV - Report
Half a Century for Southend
A decent crowd gathered on a warm sunny day at Warners Bridge. They were treated to a resurgent performance from Southend against their West Country visitors Clifton.
The game started with the Southend forwards bullying their way forward at every opportunity, Clifton found them hard to handle and were forced into conceding a number of penalties, two of which resulted in the ball being dispatched between the post from the trusty boot of Andrew Frost. 6-0 after eight minutes.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when the scrum went backward for the first time and they conceded a penalty of their own, a quick tap and go followed by a pass found Clifton's Matt Britton who broke through a couple of half hearted tackles and dashed forward to touch down. The conversion attempt failed but the score moved to 6-5.
A few minutes later Clifton scored another soft try through Sam Smith, again he went through attempted tackles before crossing the line, again the conversion attempt failed but they had crept into the lead 6-10.
Southend knuckled down and the tackles, when required, were much more forceful and successful. As a result Southend's dominance returned and when some great work by prop Michael Guess resulted in him ripping the ball away from a Clifton forward Southend were rewarded with their first try of the afternoon from back row Harry Hudson. Frost converted and Southend moved into a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. 13-10.
They were rampant, chasing, harrying, tackling and playing hard expansive rugby. Clifton were under the cosh. Whenever they put Southend under pressure they were forced into turn overs. Huge clearing kicks from both Jack Jones and Sam Arnot forced them back up field. The pack lead by the effervescent man of the match Andrew McClintock were immense. They just would not let Clifton settle so it came as no surprise when the ball was delivered into the hands of Sonny Gay. An inside pass found him on a excellent supporting run. The line was impossible to defend and strode over with aplomb. The conversion sailed over 20-10.
Southend continued in the same vein with everyone playing their part. Passes stuck, the ball retained and recycled. Clifton were turned over yet again in a scrum, Arnot passed the ball to Cleare who chipped over the top, Van der Molan gathered it and set off on a charge, taking a tackle he shipped the ball back to the supporting Jack Jones who dived and stretched taking it over the line, another conversion followed from Frost and the score moved on to 27-10.
On the stroke of half time Clifton clawed back three points when Ben Roberts converted a penalty taking the score to 27-13.
Play resumed in the second half with Southend striving to extend their lead. This time it was the turn of Andrew Frost playing some of his best rugby of his season. Big Mac gathered the ball from the kick off and took on the Clifton pack again, he recycled the ball to the supporting Frost who ducked and turned out of tackles as he took the ball over for another try. He converted it himself and the score moved on to 34-13.
They were still playing dominant rugby mainly in the Clifton half and before long scored another fine try. This time it was the turn of the rampaging Joe Van der Molan. He burst through the Clifton defence who were unable to stop him scoring. Again Frost did the honours for a 41-13 lead and then added to it with a penalty a few minutes later. 44-13.
Clifton were reeling, and could do nothing about Southend's next try from wing Billy Driver. He received a long pass wide out which spilled from his grasp, luckily it bounced backwards and he was able to turn and gather, however once it was secure he weaved his way through the Clifton defence at pace and touched down Frost converted again taking his personal point tally for the day to twenty six and Southend over the fifty point mark at 51-13.
Having put the game out of Clifton's reach Southend rang the changes and took their foot off the peddle. Team structure suffered and Clifton took advantage running in three try's in the last fifteen minutes. With no further reply from Southend the final score moved to a more respectable 51-32 and a bonus point for both sides.
This was a wonderful response to a difficult week from the players and showed what they are capable of when motivated.
The result takes them to 10th place in National 2 South and more importantly fourteen points clear of the drop zone.