The game was played in front of a crowd estimated at about 1500 and they were treated to a passionate encounter. The tension of the local derby seemed to get to the players as mistakes abounded on both sides but the excitement of the afternoon never abated.
Bridgwater made only one change to the side that defeated Wells, bringing in Adrian Tew at tight head to replace the work-tied Joe Bussell with Scott Woolford joining the bench.
Bridgwater kicked off and had first use of the cold, stiff breeze blowing straight down the pitch. The home side exerted early pressure but could not break a resolute Pethy defence.
Bridgwater lost wing Garryn Basson to a yellow card for foul play after twelve minutes. The visitors set up a driving maul following this penalty and flanker, Dan Frost scored in the corner. Harry Roberts could not convert.
Chad Lowrie, who ran powerfully all afternoon, made a good break for the visitors but his chip ahead was minored.
Home full back James Martin caught a loose Pethy kick on his own 10m line and made 40m. A penalty to the corner then set up a Bridgwater forward drive that was initially repulsed. The ball was recycled to the left where Ashwin scythed through the visiting defence for a try he converted himself.
North Petherton brought on Pete Dickens at prop to replace Kyle Prescott who appeared to be injured.
As half time approached, a second Bridgwater try mirrored the first. A penalty to 10m and a driving maul from the lineout was again followed by the ball going left. A huge miss-pass from Jervis Manupenu put Martin in a gap and he cruised to the line leaving Ashwin with a relatively easy conversion. With the final kick of the half he also landed a 47m penalty to leave the score 20-5 at the break.
Some of the many former players watching the game wondered if a 15 point advantage would be enough, given the strength of the breeze. Only time would tell.
North Petherton, with Gavin Hancock replacing Mike Stevens on the wing, started the second half on the attack. Roberts kicked a short-range penalty when Bridgwater were penalised for a high tackle but could not convert a try by flanker, Carl Brown, who scored in the corner following yet another line-out drive.
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Bridgwater brought on Rob Thompson instead of Ali Blundell in the powerhouse and shortly after Stu Heal replaced Basson, but taking Rob Allen’s centre berth, with Allen moving out to the wing.
Perhaps the decisive moment of the second half came when North Petherton replacement prop Pete Dickens was yellow carded. As no replacement prop was available the scrummages became uncontested until Dickens returned.
In the meantime, Bridgwater pressure brought a penalty for Ashwin that ended the scoring and a 23-13 victory for the home side.
Bridgwater’s usual line-out fluency deserted them this afternoon, with too many balls lost. Perhaps the stiff breeze was partly to blame. Handling, on both sides, was also not a smooth as usual and all too often, possession was lost. Perhaps the pressure of the local derby in front of such a large crowd had something to do with it.
Tackling from both sides was quite ferocious when players attempted to move the ball wide. Both sides seemed content to set up driving mauls at every opportunity.
Both sides were anxious to win the game not only for league points but also for bragging rights. Bridgwater remain in third place with 63 points, just four points behind Ivybridge whilst North Petherton are still in sixth place with 45 points. Next week, Bridgwater visit runaway league leaders, Cleve, who won narrowly 28-27 when the sides met at College Way earlier in the season. North Petherton’s next opponents are Wells, who visit Beggar’s Brook next week, and who are close to North Petherton in mid table.
Tries: Frost, Brown
Bridgwater & Albion
James Martin, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Chris Ashwin, Nick Francis, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Adrian Tew, Ali Blundell, Dan Kemmish, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Taylor Buller
Replacements used, Rob Thompson, Stu Heal . Not used, Scott Woolford.
Harry Roberts, Mike Stevens, Harry Auton, Chad Lowrie, Damian Griffin (Capt), Jacob Beleski, Ben Tracey, Kyle Prescott, Sam Williams, Lewis Phillips, James Taylor, James Cox, Dan Frost, Carl Brown, Aaron Gibbs
Replacements all used, Pete Dickens, Simon Gingell, Gavin Hancock.