In front of a large crowd, by completing the double over league newcomers, North Dorset, Bridgwater have finally climbed out of the relegation zone.
Bridgwater started with Ollie Dunn in the centre with Will Kerry dropping to the bench, Roger Drabble came back at scrum half with Dominik Griffin moving out to no 10. Matt Northey started in the second row with Doug Page-Symonds on the bench and Mitch Windsor starting at open side flanker.
On a wet pitch, North Dorset started the stronger of the two sides and scored straight from the kick off. Ollie Dunn caught the kick-off and was immediately tackled. When he was penalised for not releasing, Jay Westcar kicked a simple penalty. However he then missed a difficult touchline conversion following Charlie Allhusen’s try six minutes later as the visitors were in complete control.
Bridgwater hit back and won a penalty, kicked to touch in the visitors 22. The expected catch and drive worked well and having recycled the ball a couple of times, Roger Drabble found space to wriggle over. Stuart Heal converted with an excellent kick. At the same time, Westcar was yellow carded for trying to prevent Bridgwater recycling the ball earlier in the movement.
Despite being a man short, North Dorset belied their league position and pressed hard, putting the home defence under a lot of pressure. It was, however, Bridgwater who scored next. A couple of penalties into the visitors 22 saw another driving maul and Rob Thompson score the try for Heal to convert and give the home side a slightly flattering half time lead at 14-8.
The restart was greeted by heavy rain but it did not deter the home side who, seemingly in a different mind set, set out to play expansive rugby. It bore fruit with a good try for Tom King in front of the clubhouse, converted from the touchline by Heal.
Westcar narrowed the gap with a penalty before Rob Allen, who had run hard at the defence all afternoon, got Bridgwater’s bonus point try that was unconverted.
Bridgwater replaced flanker Windsor with centre Kerry, allowing Dunn to go back to the forwards and then in quick succession Page-Symonds replaced Thompson and Sam Russell replaced Garryn Basson with Dunn moving back into the backs, this time on the wing.
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Bridgwater became more and more dominant exhibiting a lot of confidence in their support play and handling, even in the horrendous conditions, and could have had a couple more tries before evergreen James Bryant touched down following yet another driving maul. Next it was Ollie Dunn’s turn to score in the corner following a very good flowing move. Heal missed both conversions as well as ambitious 40m dropped goal attempt.
North Dorset had the last word with an unconverted consolation try by Will Willoughby. In a carbon copy of the first half yellow card, Page-Symonds was binned for an offence in the build up to the try. Dunn almost scored again at the end but was tackled just short of the line.
Bridgwater players and coaches were very happy not only with the result but with the performance. The pack were very strong, holding all their own ball and even stealing an opposition scrum and a couple of lines-out. The backs looked strong in attack and resolute in defence. Some of the support play was outstanding, reminiscent of the French sides some 30 years ago. They are beginning to play like a team and not a bunch of individuals.
Bridgwater are due to host Weston super Mare next Saturday, Dec 22nd, in the Quarter Final of the Somerset Cup. With Weston riding high in the league above Bridgwater, this will be a big task for our local team. The game will kick off at 3-00pm and the players can then have a well-deserved break until they travel to league leaders, North Petherton, in the New Year for another very tough encounter.
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Drabble, Thompson, King, Allen, Bryant, Dunn
Cons: Heal (3)
Tries: Allhusen, Willoughby
Pens: Westcar (2)
Bridgwater Starting Team: Stuart Heal, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Ollie Dunn, Tom King, Dominik Griffin, Roger Drabble, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Christian Preece, Rob Thompson, Matt Northey, Nick Spellissy, Mitch Windsor, Dan Kemmish (Capt)
Replacements all used: Will Kerry, Doug Page-Symonds, Sam Russell
Referee: Karl Gibson, (Somerset)
Match report by Tony Pomeroy