The CMK Senior As hosted Clifton in an important match to keep in touch with the top four heading into the second round.
Coach Ra Mako had challenged the team to start better, which they did to some extent without any reward on the scoreboard. Instead it was Clifton which managed to score first with a penalty followed by two tries, one an intercept, and lead 17-0.
Things weren't getting any better with standout player Donald Maka going down injured with a broken foot which will sideline him for a number of weeks.
The injection of Kolaia Nalewabau back from concussion added some spark into the team and before long they were able to piece together three tries in quick succession. Winger Samisoni Nadole scored the first after some good hands in the backs. Sam Mako scored the second following a superb backs move from set piece and then Rupeni Vakasalimi the third just before the break.
Jordan Masters managed to convert two of the tries and from trailing 17-0, the half time score was now 20-19 in Clifton's favour. Clifton extended their lead with a penalty before Stratford took the lead through Nalewabau scoring on the back of some good hands by Gary Old. Masters converted and Stratford led 26-23. Another intercept try saw Clifton retake the lead 30-26. Masters closed the gap with another penalty. Clifton scored to extend again to 37-29 before a tighthead had Nadole scoot towards the corner and feed Nawai inside to score. The kick missed and Clifton led 37-34 with 10 to play. Clifton gained a penalty to lead 40-34 before Stratford hit back to score again through Isaiah Namote. The conversion missed and set up a tense last few minutes. With time almost up, Stratford were awarded a penalty which Masters kicked to take the lead 42-40. Clifton had one more chance but their penalty from out wide missed and Stratford won. This was a great team effort. Standout players were Matthew Kissick, David Avery and Jordan Masters.