HEAD coach Will Croker is ticking off the games after Bournemouth’s 33-31 win at Cleve pushed them 15 points clear at the South West Premier summit.

With second-place Barnstaple losing 27-19 at Drybrook, the Chapel Gate side’s 18th win in 19 fixtures stretched their advantage.

To Croker’s relief, Grant Hancox’s match-winning penalty five minutes into added time secured the points but not after being pushed all the way in Bristol.

He said: “There is a bit of a feeling of relief after that win because we are now at the stage of the season where we are starting to tick off the games.

“It just goes to show the resilience of the boys to go back up the other end of the pitch, win the ball back and work themselves into a position where Grant got the shot at goal with the penalty chance, which meant we got the win.”

Hancox gave his side the perfect start with a penalty, try and conversion inside the opening 12 minutes to open up a10-0 lead.

Cleve openside John Humphreys then got on the end of a catch-and-drive lineout to register their first score after 25 minutes, which was not improved.

Bournemouth wing Adam Higgins then dotted down to stretch the advantage, with Hancox adding the extras. After missing the earlier conversion, Cleve fly-half Nathan Huntley then crossed and converted to make it 17-12 at half-time.

The visitors began the second period as they did the first, with another Hancox penalty, to lead 20-12.

Bournemouth hooker Joe Tarrant then bashed his way over to score from inside the Cleve 22 after 56 minutes, with Hancox converting for 27-12.

With the match entering its final quarter, Cleve replacement Neil Evans darted over from a lightning-quick tap penalty and Huntley made it 27-19 with the successful kick.

Bournemouth centre Scott Chislett was then sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes after a high tackle on 66 minutes.

Cleve took full advantage by sending left wing Max Baker over in the corner, with Huntley making it a one-point game at 27-26.

Hancox nudged a further three points clear with another penalty but back came Cleve again. From a catch-and-drive lineout, the pack breached the whitewash.

Huntley could not convert this time, leaving Lions trailing 31-30.

But the man who had brought Cleve back into the game – Baker – then conceded a crucial penalty, which Hancox despatched for victory, to the delight of Croker.

He added: “Cleve played very well and in fact it was one of the best Cleve sides I have ever seen.

“I think what we could really do with is a really morale-boosting big win, just to get everybody feeling good about themselves again and feeling positive with the ball in hand.”

Bournemouth host Drybrook at Chapel Gate on Saturday.