This was a thrilling game to entertain the large crowd. Yes, there were mistakes made, but the spectacle of eleven tries on a perfect afternoon for rugby made the crowd regret this was Bridgwater’s last home game of the year writes Tony Pomeroy.
Bridgwater brought Jon Hill into fullback but the rest of the side were very familiar faces this season. The crowd found it very difficult to identify the Thornbury players as, wearing their changed strip, their shirt numbering was very haphazard.
Thornbury exerted early pressure but could not make it count. Nick Spellissy then gathered a loose ball in midfield and released Joel Clark. He was tackled in the visitors 22. Bridgwater kept up the pressure and Nick Francis was stopped short. However, Will Kerry followed up and gathered the ball to score an unconverted try in the corner.
Poor Bridgwater tackling then allowed full back Ed Sheldon to break through for the equalising unconverted try. With the home pack looking lively, they earned a penalty, missed by Stuart Heal.
Another Sheldon break put Bridgwater under pressure and Tim Stephens, who earlier had briefly left the field with an injury, gave the visitors the lead with a penalty. Moments later, Bridgwater were given a great let off when centre Dai Matthews broke through and then unaccountably dropped the ball just short of the line with the defence totally absent.
The home defence was missing again when Dan Hussey broke clean through for a try converted by Matthews before Bridgwater hit back. Rob Allen and Ollie Dunn combined well and the ball was then moved to the right for Francis to get an unconverted try. With the final kick of the half, Stephens extended the Thornbury lead to 10-18 with a 48m penalty that went over via the cross bar.
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Bridgwater used all three replacements at half time but quickly lost wing Joel Clark to injury, necessitating starting scrum half Sam Knights returning on the wing.
Bridgwater exerted pressure and when replacement Doug Page-Symonds took a clean line-out catch, the pack drove 20m to the line for ace poacher, Matt Hastie to grab a try converted by Heal.
Thornbury then put together some great play and were rewarded with a penalty from Stephens.
Bridgwater then had their own spell of pressure and from a 5m scrum, No 8, Tayler Buller, drove over for a bonus point try, converted by Heal to give Bridgwater a short-lived lead. From the kick off, Matthews broke through some weak tackling for a good individual try converted by Stephens and regain the lead at 24-28.
The lead changed hands again when good forward pressure saw Page-Symonds get Bridgwater’s fifth try again converted by Heal.
Heal then almost got over himself but was held up short. Bridgwater continued to pressurise the visitors and a lovely inside pass from Hastie created space for James Bryant to charge over under the posts giving Heal an easy conversion.
Now ten points down, Thornbury threw everything into attack. A loose pass inside the Bridgwater 22 was intercepted by Francis who sprinted 70m, was almost caught by Sheldon sprinting back, but scored a try converted by Heal.
The final try, Thornbury’s bonus point try, came when Matthews again broke through for a fine individual try that remained unconverted.
Bridgwater’s five point haul has offset the five they are being deducted for playing an unregistered player.
In this game, Bridgwater, for a change, had slices of luck that have been missing for much of the season – the dropped pass saving a certain 7 points and the interception try could well have been a 14 point swing – but it was unnecessary for a visiting player to suggest to the referee after the game that it was time he retired.
The Bridgwater players and coaches will be pleased with the second half performance in particular. The forwards especially looked very strong and put the visiting scrum under some pressure. They will look forward to next week’s visit to Wadebridge Camels with some confidence, particularly as the Cornish side were heavily defeated at Bideford in their last outing.
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Francis (2), Kerry, Hastie, Bryant, Page-Symonds, Buller
Cons: Heal (5)
Tries: Sheldon, Matthews, Stephens (2)
Cons: Matthews (2)
Pens: Matthews (3)