This was a typical hard fought league game between two fairly even-matched teams. No quarter was given or asked and some of the tackling was of a very high standard. Both sides contributed to a game of seven tries and enjoyed by a large crowd.
Bridgwater brought in Garryn Basson for the injured Chris Ashwin with Rob Allen moving in to centre and Basson on the wing. Rob Thompson also started in the second row with Ali Blundell on the bench.
Bridgwater, playing with a stiff breeze at their backs, had the better of the opening exchanges. After six minutes, home scrum half Roger Drabble put a speculative kick deep into the Avonmouth 22. The ball was fumbled and Bridgwater regained possession. They moved the ball left where a deft pass from Matt Hastie put James Martin in the clear and he scored the opening try in the corner. Stu Heal was just wide with the conversion.
Avonmouth took the game back to Bridgwater but despite two penalties to touch in the home 22, Bridgwater’s defence held firm.
When Bridgwater got back to the other end, the Avonmouth defence were penalised and Heal kicked a simple penalty to make the score 8-0.
Avonmouth continued to pressure the home line and scored a somewhat strange try. Centre Elliot Nightingale was haring down the left wing as a Bridgwater defender tried to tear the ball from his grasp. The ball flew over the Bridgwater line and Nightingale was first to react, grounding the ball in the corner. Joe Wearne could not convert.
The kick off did not go the requisite 10m but Bridgwater won the resulting scrum with a clean strike against the head – a rare event in modern rugby.
Minutes later, Avonmouth took the lead. From a scrum in midfield, they moved the ball right where it reached Billy Reynolds on the wing and he hared over for an unconverted try.
Approaching injury time in the first half, Jervis Manupenu broke clear for the home side but elected to go himself rather than give a scoring pass and the chance was lost. However, in the final minute he broke through again and this time scored under the posts. Heal converted for a 15-10 half time score and with Avonmouth to play with the breeze in the second half, it was anyone’s game.
After only four minutes, Avonmouth’s hooker, Craig Britton, appeared to strike his opposite number and was duly sin-binned. A couple of Bridgwater penalties took play deep into the Avonmouth 22 where a driving maul from a line-out saw the inevitable try, credited to Joe Bussell. Heal’s conversion stretched the home lead to 22-10.
Bridgwater achieved their fifteenth bonus point of the season mid way through the half. James Bryant started the move on the Avonmouth 10m line and burst through the initial defence. The ball was moved on and eventually reached a fast-moving Rob Allen who proved unstoppable as he scored under the posts. Heal’s conversion stretched the lead to 29-10.
Avonmouth had the last word when full back, Andy Taylor, who had looked a dangerous runner all afternoon crossed in the corner following a period of pressure. He could not convert his own try and the score remained at 29-15 giving Bridgwater their eighth consecutive league victory. Both sides were applauded off at the end of a stirring contest.
With Avonmouth being one of the form sides in the league, Bridgwater did well to record a bonus point win. The pack looked strong in the lines-out where Hastie’s throws enabled the jumpers to reign supreme. The scrummage was solid with one clean strike against the head for the front row to dine out on. Rob Thompson caught the eye, running well with ball in hand, and skipper, Ollie Dunn was, as usual, immense. The backs looked lively, with Manupenu and Heal making clean breaks and Martin, as ever, every inch the attacking full-back.
Bridgwater have crept up to second place level on points with Ivybridge but with one win more whilst Avonmouth drop to 6th, behind Bideford who will be hosting Bridgwater next week. A trip to the North Devon coast in January, what could be better. See you there!
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries : Martin, Manupenu, Bussell, Allen
Cons : Heal (3)
Tries: Nightingale, B. Reynolds, Taylor.
James Martin, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Stu Heal (rep Jonathon Hill 67), Oscar Tregenna, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Joe Bussell (rep Adrian Tew 64), Rob Thompson (rep Ali Blundell 48), Dan Kemmish, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Taylor Buller
Referee: Adam Wookey (Dorset & Wilts)