On a day perfect for rugby, we were treated to a game that matched the conditions. With nothing tangible on the result -Bridgwater needed to win to ensure third place in the league and St.Austell were guaranteed relegation – the players set out to entertain the crowd.
They were fortunate to have a referee, Nick Heath, who was in tune with the players and gave them the freedom and encouragement to play an expansive game.
Bridgwater brought back halfbacks Jervis Manupenu and Roger Drabble who were unavailable last week with Chris Ashwin reverting to centre and Stu Heal to full back. Jordan Brodley came into the front row with Joe Bussell dropping to the bench.
The opening quarter was end to end stuff as both sides threw the ball about with abandon. The visitors had by far the better of the opening minutes as Bridgwater struggled to get their hands on the ball but Bridgwater gradually came back to dominate territory and possession.
A major surprise was that there was no score in this period. The only chance was a 43m penalty attempt by visiting full back, Dan Pearce, that shaved the left hand post. From the drop out, the ball was gathered by Nick Spellissy who started a great move that ended with Chris Ashwin losing the ball almost on the visiting line. This just about summed up the first quarter.
After 25 mins, the visiting fly half, Liam Freeman was yellow carded for a trip and Ashwin opened the scoring with a 22m penalty.
St Austell hit back immediately and, despite being a man short, a good flowing move ended with winger Ben Chenoweth scoring near the posts. Pearce converted to give the visitors an unlikely lead.
A few minutes later, Arg Saliarelis caught a loose kick out by the visitors. He made progress just into the visitors’ half before being stopped. The ball was picked up by prop, Jordan Brodley who scythed through the defence, brushing away many would-be tacklers, for a superb individual try converted by Ashwin to give Bridgwater a narrow 10-7 interval lead.
Early in the second half Saliarelis started another move from inside his own half. He handed on to Rob Allen who made 40m before being stopped almost on the visitors line. The ball eventually found the hands of Ashwin who scored a try he converted himself.
Joe Bussell, a half time prop replacement for Albion then showed his speed with a40m break.
Then Saliarelis was involved again in a try-scoring move with Stu Heal that ended with Allen crashing over near the posts leaving Ashwin an easy conversion.
After 15 mins, Bridgwater achieved the four try bonus point that ensured a third- place position in the league when birthday boy, skipper Ollie Dunn was on hand to score following a break by Allen. Ashwin kept up his 100% record by converting.
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Saliarelis almost finished off a Bridgwater move that started behind their own line but was tackled almost on the St Austell line and then Spellisssy did cross the line but, correctly, called back for a forward pass.
Whilst Bridgwater will be disappointed not to have reached second place in the league and hence a place in the play-offs next week, they were somewhat relieved that third place was not down to the five point deduction they received during the close season. Some of the powerful running on view today from everyone in the side from full back to prop was great to watch. With slightly better ball retention the score could well have been doubled. The lineout was back to its best after a hiccup at Camborne last week.
Skipper, Ollie Dunn has led from the front all season with hard tackling and aggressive running with ball in hand and the players have all played their part. The coaches and management of the team should be well-satisfied with their season. With the proposed league reorganisation postponed for at least a season – and in all probability shelved – it will need a top two finish next season to regain National League status.
Next Season sees Cleve – and possibly Ivybridge following a play-off at Northampton against Towcestrians next Saturday – moving up to National 3 SW with Weston SM and Chard moving down to our league whilst we lose Cullompton, St. Austell and Matson to lower leagues.
It is certain that Teignmouth will be promoted into this league with either the Champions of Southern Counties South – Swanage and Wareham – or the Western Counties North Champions – Coney Hill – depending on the geographical composition of other teams in our league and SW1E. It is likely that Kingsbridge will travel to Newent in a play-off game to decide the third team to join the SW1W league. There may also be one or two ‘level transfers’ to even out numbers in SW1W and SW1E.
The league will make their decisions in due course and next season’s fixtures should be out in early June. They will be published on the Bridgwater & Albion website as soon as they become available.
We can expect that almost half our matches next season will be with other Somerset clubs , i.e. Chard, Clevedon, North Petherton, Wells and Weston SM
There are some mouth-watering local derbies to look forward to !
In two weeks time, on May 2nd, a Bridgwater XV will play Bristol Wanderers at College Way in a fund-raising game for the three B&A Testimonial Players’ respective charities. Do come along for a feast of friendly rugby that will kick off earlier than usual at 2-00 pm.
On Wednesday May 20th, there will be another charity fund-raising event – a Golf Day at Isle of Wedmore GC. Details from Tony Pomeroy at firstname.lastname@example.org
The new season will be with us before we know it – pre-season training begins in early July with league matches starting the first Saturday in September.
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Brodley, Ashwin, Allen, Dunn
Cons. Ashwin (4)
Tries. Chenoweth, Martin
Bridgwater Team: Stu Heal, Garryn Basson (rep Tom Denovan 53), Rob Allen, Chris Ashwin, Arg Saliarelis, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, Jordan Brodley, Matt Hastie, James Bryant (rep Joe Bussell 40), Ali Blundell, Dan Kemmish, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Taylor Buller (rep Rob Thompson 46)
Referee : Nick Heath (Somerset Referees Society)