Cullompton, by scoring two tries to nil, deservedly won this fixture to record a double over the Somerset side. Bridgwater, losing a game by five points or less for the fifth time this season, had to be content with a losing bonus point writes Tony Pomeroy.
Bridgwater were badly hit by injuries and unavailability and had to make a total of ten changes to the side named in the programme. Player/coach Simon Martin started at full-back with Ashley Pippard and Jon Hill on the wings. Sam Knights was at scrum half. In the pack, Ollie Dunn started at hooker with Matt Northey and Doug Page-Symonds in ‘the boiler room’. Skipper, Dan Kemmish, moved to flanker and Matt Hastie and Scott Walford joined the bench.
The pitch was in remarkably good condition given the recent bad weather and it was the visitors first on the scoreboard. A break by scrum half Tom Frankpitt took Cullompton deep into Bridgwater territory and although he was tackled by Simon Martin, the ball was recycled. It reached Paul Baker near the left touchline and despite the attentions of more than one defender, he somehow managed not only to cross the line but get the ball down. The conversion from skipper Adam Pearce shaved the wrong side of the upright.
Bridgwater narrowed the gap after five minutes. Cullompton collapsed a maul on their own 10m line and Bridgwater fly half, Stuart Heal, celebrated his 21st Birthday by landing his first penalty of the day.
When Bridgwater attacked, Brian Webb and Ollie Dunn were both prominent but could not generate a score
Play ebbed from end to end until, after 20 minutes, Pearce landed a 20m penalty when Bridgwater were adjudged to have broken early from a scrum.
Bridgwater continued to search for that elusive try, evening spurning a possible kickable penalty from around 40m
Just before half time, Heal kicked his second penalty from 38m to leave the home side trailing 6-8. Cullompton were not quite done, putting Bridgwater under considerable pressure approaching half time but the home defence held firm.
With Simon Martin leaving the field at half time, Will Kerry moved to full back and Tayler Buller went to inside centre for the home side.
In the first twelve minutes of the half, Heal kicked two more penalties, the second of which was awarded for a high tackle by Frankpitt which earned him a yellow card.
Despite being shorthanded, Cullompton took the game to Bridgwater. They took scrums and lineouts against the put in and the home side were forced to defend desperately.
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Bridgwater had some hope when Doug Page-Symonds – who had secured every Cullompton kick off – stole a ball on his own 10m line. Rob Allen tried to batter his way through when the ball reached him but the efforts came to naught.
Both sides made many changes which did little for the continuity of the play.
As the end approached, Cullompton’s influential number 8, Chris Griffiths was carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury and as he headed to the treatment room Baker was put free and again scored in the corner. Pearce’s conversion once more shaved the wrong side of the posts but the visitors had done enough for the narrowest of wins.
Cullompton were delighted with the win that maintains their unbeaten record in the league against Bridgwater but Bridgwater will once again rue gaining only a single losing bonus point. The home side looked a little lethargic and by the end more than one player looked to be carrying knocks and not able to move too freely. Hopefully, things will be better next week when Bridgwater visit Cleve who sneaked a victory that looked very unlikely when Bridgwater took a 24-3 lead when the sides met at Bridgwater in September.
Bridgwater & Albion
Pens:- Heal (4)
Tries:- Baker (2)
Bridgwater Starting Team: Simon Martin, Ashley Pippard, Rob Allen, Will Kerry, Jon Hill, Stu Heal, Sam Knights, James Bryant, Ollie Dunn, Joe Bussell, Matt Northey, Doug Page-Symonds, Dan Kemmish (Capt), Brian Webb, Tayler Buller
Replacements used: Matt Hastie, Lovejoy Chawatama
Not used: Scott Walford
Referee: Paul Box (Somerset Society)