WESTCLIFF slipped to a 51-37 defeat against table-topping Clifton in an entertaining National Two South clash at the Gables.

The setback was Westcliff’s 21st in 22 outings this season.

But first team manager Rick Compton was pleased with the character on show.

“Overall it was an entertaining game, lots of attacking rugby and excellent finishing,” said Compton.

“After a disastrous start it was pleasing that the lads didn’t buckle, restored some pride, remained competitive and fought tooth and nail to the very end.

“Clifton brought a lot of quality and experience with them and are an experienced well-resourced, ambitious club who now top the table.

“Even so we scored more points and more tries than on any other occasion this season and despite some disruption through injuries this week we continue to show improvement.”

The visitors started brightly and raced into a 19-0 lead inside the opening six minutes.

Westcliff were shellshocked but rallied and just a couple of minutes later were able to respond through a well worked and taken try from Mason Nicholls.

Greg Bannister converted and the tempo remained high.

The next 15 minutes were scoreless, but early in the second quarter Joe Vandermolen drove over from short range and again Bannister converted to close the score to 19-14.

However, the visitors immediately responded and scored three further tries before the break to reassert their grip and control of the game at 38-14.

Westcliff continued to play with ambition when able and were first to score after the break through Bannister, and the scores closed again to 38-19.

The teams continued to trade blows and the try fest continued unabated.

First the visitors struck to move further ahead, then Westcliff responded through Oliver Walker who secured the try scoring bonus point just past the hour mark.

Clifton scored two more, but the final say was by Westcliff and in particular youngster Jack Hogarth who took a pass mid air, jinked and stepped off each leg before chasing down his own chip ahead to score.

Bannister added the conversion.

Westcliff: Sexton, Hogarth, Bannister, Dufficy, Lanre, Whiting, Meakin, B Morrant, Brown, Scogings, Vandermolen, Nicholls, Walker, Maloney. Replacements: Barrell, Harvey, Rasor, Doyle & Lynch.

>Elsewhere in National Two South on Saturday, Rochford Hundred beat Barnstaple 33-9 at Magnolia Road.