Front-row power seals victory for a dominant Old Reds side
By The Bristol Post | Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 05:00
OLD Reds turned on the power in the final quarter to complete a comfortable 28-10 home win over Cleve to reach the last four of the Charles Saunders Combination Cup.
Old Reds' Dan Palmer cuts through the Cleve defence during his side's 28-10 victory in the Combination Cup Pictures: Artur Lesniak
Reds led only 10-3 at the break, but a strong first 40 minutes, particularly up front where player-coach Saul Nelson was at the heart of a dominant scrum, laid the foundations for a one-sided second period in which Cleve battled to work their way up the slope.
Jack Steer, at scrum-half, stretched Reds 13-3 clear with a 30-metre penalty soon after the restart.
And the home outfit then took instant advantage of the sin-binning of Cleve lock Chris Yates, for an offence at the breakdown on the hour, to build a decisive advantage.
Replacement Dan Fry, who quickly made a big impression with his line-out work, then injected some pace to polish off good approach play by skipper Jed Hooper, pictured, and fly-half Ashley Groves for his side's third try.
Steer missed the conversion, but a 25-metre Groves drop-goal made it 21-3 with ten minutes to go, virtually wrapping up the tie.
There was still time for scrum-half Nathan Huntley, Cleve's hard-working captain, to dart over for a consolation try, Matt Spencer converting.
But Reds raced straight back down field and from a catch-and-drive move, replacement hooker Liam McCreight peeled away to cross from some ten metres without a finger being laid on him, Steer converting.
Cleve had earlier had the first word, taking the lead with a fifth minute Spencer penalty, cancelled out by a Steer kick.
And Reds' powerful scrum soon after earned a penalty try, Steer converting, for a 10-3 advantage at the turnaround.
Chairman of rugby Kevin Coster said: "It was a satisfactory afternoon without us ever really clicking.
"It was good to have people like Saul and Luke Nabaro coming back from injury, and now we're looking forward to a home semi against Clifton for which we'll be massive underdogs."
Cleve head coach Paul Johnstone, meanwhile, took heart from his side's determined defence after the disappointment of the previous weekend's 27-0 league reverse at North Dorset.
The former Bristol prop said: "We had very little possession in the second half, but our attitude was good and that was what I wanted to take from this game."
In the second semi, holders Avonmouth will be away to Dings Crusaders or Clevedon after going through the gears in the final quarter to secure a 25-17 home victory against Thornbury.
The South Gloucestershire visitors were well placed at 17-10 to take revenge for last season's 23-15 defeat in the final.
But Avonmouth stepped up the pace and eased into the last four with two further tries.
First, Dan Lee was driven over the line after a catch-and-drive move, Andy Taylor levelling proceedings with an excellent conversion from wide out.
Taylor then nudged his side in front with a penalty before Charlie Reynolds had the final word of the afternoon with a try, to accompany an earlier long-range effort from brother Billy.
Matt Belbin was also on target with a drop goal for the home outfit while there was a further conversion from Taylor.
For Thornbury, Dai Matthews put his side on the board with a try converted by Tim Stephens who also added a drop goal and converted replacement Dan Green's five-pointer.
In the Combination Vase, Old Bristolians defeated Southmead 23-6 to book a quarter-final trip to Bristol Harlequins.
Skipper Mike Barton crossed – his third try in three games – while Fred Garrett marked his debut on the wing with a touchdown in each half with Miles Pakeman completing the list of scorers, Joel Keen also on target with a penalty.
Bristol Barbarians, meanwhile, thumped Broad Plain 53-7 in the Cyril Parsons Combination Bowl and will now be home to Frampton Cotterell or St Bernadettes in the last eight. There were tries from Adam Brittain (2), Max Ansell (2), Oliver Sanson, Ewen Crispin, Neil Pickford and Jake Cass, who was making his debut in the back row while James Churchill added five conversions and a penalty.
Also through are Bishopston, 29-5 home victors against Nailsea & Backwell. There were tries from centre Matt Richards, flanker Kez Traynor plus wingers Justin Read and Andre Ofaman with Jon Martin booting three conversions and a penalty. Bishopston will now be away to Imperial or neighbours Ashley Down.