Worthing Raiders Rugby Club closed the gap at the summit of National 2 South on Saturday after running riot at Roundstone Lane.
Raiders dominated proceedings from start to finish and ran out comfortable 58-3 victors against a surprisingly weak Clifton side.
Those that braved the miserable elements were treated to a try fest as Worthing scored a perfect 10, led by an Alex Nielsen hat-trick at a wet and windy Rugby Park.
The victory, combined with Redruth’s 17-11 win over leaders Henley, brought Worthing to within three points of the top, with Henley and Hartpury level on 51 points.
In the build-up, Raiders had been told of the importance of the fixture with the possibility of the other front runners losing points and they delivered in style.
The feat was made even more impressive with terrible conditions hampering their normal running rugby, although handling errors were at a minimum and they played some fantastic stuff.
Joe Burns opened the scoring after just three minutes as Worthing stole the line-out deep in the opposition territory and Joe Govett took a quick tap penalty with Clifton napping.
Three minutes later, Darren Clayton made a break from a scrum and offloaded to Nielsen, who went over under the posts to leave Govett a simple conversion.
It was 19-0 on 10 minutes as Matt Miles powered through from a line-out and Govett again added the extra two points, despite the rising wind.
Clifton got themselves off the mark when Rob Benedict put over a penalty but it was to be their only points of the afternoon.
Raiders were superior in the scrums and drove their opponents back every time as the earlier signs that it would be a long afternoon for the visitors continued.
Burns dived over in the corner after a good Nielsen break on 19 minutes as the winger just kept the ball live.
Raiders soon went over again when Jack Maslen’s effort was initially held up, but he managed to get it down right in the corner and Worthing went into the break with a 29-3 lead and the bonus-point already wrapped up.
Worthing emerged for the second half with a change of kit – sporting their pink change shirts – but it was more of the same from the hosts.
Miles had an effort held up before, after a tap penalty, Rob Smith crashed down after a period of pressure.
On 47 minutes, a superb Govett break created an opening and he touched down after the ball was played back to him and he feinted a step and skipped through before duly converting.
Nielsen put down a superb second after he collected an angled kick forward on 49 minutes, after Clifton comically gave the ball away at a line-out, with Govett again converting.
The winger raced through for his third with 12 minutes remaining as he sprinted from his own half to dive upon a kick from the Worthing half.
Pete Cleveland then wrapped up the scoring with three minutes left with a try created by a jinking run from replacement Cameron Roberts.
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson said: “They had been on a good run and came into the game off a good win against Canterbury, so to win by so many points and to score so many tries was very pleasing.
“It was a very professional performance and we were ruthless, which is something I have asked for but we haven’t always delivered.”
On the race for promotion, Dawson believes it is now a four-team race and said: “I think it’s going to come down to Redruth, Hartpury, Henley and ourselves. We’re in third place at the moment but, if we win at Taunton in our next game, which won’t be easy, then we’ll definitely go into second place as the top two play each other.”
Raiders do not have a game on Saturday.
WORTHING: Farnes, Maslen, Peters, Clayton, Nielsen, Dudley, Govett, Cleveland, Miles, Burns, Barlow, McGowan, Arthur, Hewick, Smith. Subs: Pointing, Sewell (Miles, Smith 55), Leeming (Dudley 61), Roberts, Henderson (Farnes, Burns 67).