BIRMINGHAM & Solihull Bees suffered their sixth defeat in seven league games after they were edged out 31-22 by mid-table Clifton.
With the prospect of playing downhill against 14 men in the second half, the visitors would have fancied their chances of overcoming a 12-8 half-time deficit to record their second win of the National Two South season.
Instead, Clifton scored three unanswered tries in 20 minutes to take a 31-8 lead and the game away from the Bees.
When Pete Glackin’s side finally woke up and started to play some rugby, they scored two tries in a five-minute spell to spark hopes of an unlikely comeback, but Clifton had the power and the patience to see out the game.
Playing with the wind but against the slope in the first half, things started badly for the Bees with a try for winger Bentley Halpin after nine minutes.
A yellow card for Nathan Tilsley for taking out Halpin in the air further rubbed salt in the wound.
The lead was extended to 12-0 eight minutes later when No.8 Alfie To’ala crashed over from a five-metre scrum, with Brad Barnes able to convert the extras.
However, Clifton shot themselves in the foot on the 27-minute mark when prop Callum Simpson was red carded for foul play.
Bees’ prop Kurtis Payne was yellow carded for his part in the incident.
Jack Jolly got the visitors on the scoreboard from the ensuing penalty and further Bees’ pressure yielded a try for full-back Tilsley three minutes from the break to cut the deficit to just four points.
Clifton were able to regroup and camped themselves in the Bees’ 22 for a good chunk of the second period.
Sustained pressure at the scrum earned Nick Bingham – making a welcome return in a Bees’ shirt – a yellow card.
With playing numbers evened out at least temporarily, tries from Alex Lambert, Chris Levseley and Will Pomphrey, with two conversions from Barnes, left the visitors visibly shell-shocked.
An emptying of the bench helped spur on a mini rival.
A second score for Tilsley and a try for Luke Smith, both converted by Jolly, showed this game had been there for the taking had the Bees played with similar levels of skill and intensity across the other 75 minutes.
Bees make the trip to Guernsey on Saturday.