WESTCLIFF started 2019 with an impressive 23-16 win at Hertford.

Third-placed Westcliff sat immediately above their hosts in the London & SE Premier Division standings heading into Saturday’s clash.

And Westcliff’s director of rugby Rick Compton was delighted to move nine points clear of their opponents after producing a hardworking performance.

“We were really pleased with the lads’ application and their finishing because this is a tough place to come and get a result, something we have learned to our cost in the past,” said Compton.

“We came having had to make enforced changes, then our tight head was injured in the warm-up and couldn’t take the field.

“We also lost our outside centre to an injury in the first half and yet we didn’t allow ourselves to be knocked out of our stride.

“We remained focused and disciplined defensively when we had to be.

“We also took the opportunities we crafted, scoring four good tries to collect the bonus point.

“It was a huge effort from the whole squad in an intense game and a tough environment and one that sets a very positive tone for the week ahead despite a few worrying injuries picked up along the way.”

But, despite the final scoreline, it was Hertford who were on the front foot early on and they opened the scoring with a penalty.

However, Westcliff hit back and created space on the left wing which Buster Reynolds was able to exploit as he swivelled and rolled to complete the grounding when it appeared he would be held up.

Moments later, Westcliff went further ahead with a try from Jack Jones before more uncompromising defending produced a similar outcome on the half hour mark with Greg Bannister running in from deep to make it 15-3 at half-time.

After the break, Hertford hit back with an unconverted try of their own before Westcliff replied when a driving maul rumbled over the line with George Maloney securing the score.

But Hertford refused to give up and responded by scoring a try on the hour mark, meaning the match was still in the balance heading into the final 20 minutes.

As the game ebbed and flowed Westcliff returned to Hertford territory and forced a penalty in front of the posts but at long range.

Jones accepted the responsibility and coolly struck the ball sweetly with the required accuracy and length to clear the crossbar and extend the lead to 10 points at 23-13 with 15 minutes to go.

A further ferocious 10 minutes slipped by without any further scores until Hertford secured and converted a penalty of their own.

But, by then, Westcliff had already done enough to secure a hard-fought win.

Westcliff: Bannister, Reynolds, Stol, J Jones, Merrick, McKeith, Spivey, Weston, B Morrant, Dellas, Dartnell, Scogings, Marsh, Hatton, Maloney

Replacements: Lane, Johnson & H Morrant