Match Report by Tony Pomeroy
Bridgwater made a couple of changes from the side that played at Cullompton last week. Nick Francis started at full back in place of the injured James Martin and Nick Spellissy returned to number 8 in place of the unavailable Taylor Buller. Jordan Brodley made his home debut and Arg Saliarelis made his season’s home debut. James Bryant returned from his sickbed to the bench where he was joined by Garryn Basson and Joe Stradling.
Bridgwater, without dominating the game, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in an escape worthy of Houdini. Visitors, Drybrook, were the better side, in control for much of the game and were very unlucky to lose. Their play belied their league position and showed they should not be in danger of relegation. Bridgwater on the other hand, created relatively few chances but defended heroically. Some of the tackling, particularly from skipper, Ollie Dunn, Arg Saliarelis and Jervis Manupenu was top drawer and there was generally a ‘they shall not pass’ attitude to the defence. There were some scintillating runs but mishandling was again costly.
The visitors should have taken an early lead but Tim Stevenson missed a simple penalty. Bridgwater opened the scoring after fifteen minutes. Rob Allen made 30m with a powerful run down the right wing before the ball was recycled left. It reached Stu Heal who just made to the line in the left hand corner. Chris Ashwin’s conversion was wide but a few minutes later he landed a 20m penalty to increase the home team’s lead.
Bridgwater then lost Matt Hastie to a yellow card for a technical offence ‘in the red zone’. The home side were under tremendous pressure and a great run
by visiting skipper, Ben Large was halted by a try-saving tackle from Arg Saliarelis.
The pressure eventually told and Drybrook got their first and only try when prop Craig Clarke, following a series of rucks, crashed over near the posts giving Stevenson an easy conversion.
On the stroke of half time, Ashwin’s thought he had kicked a penalty for Bridgwater. One touch judge raised his flag, the other did not, and the referee did not award the kick. Most of the crowd thought the kick was good.
Saliarelis started the second half with an excellent 40m break that came to nothing when poor handling caused Bridgwater to lose the ball.
Stevenson missed a 42m penalty for the visitors before putting them into the lead with a close range kick. The match-winning score came after 34 minutes. A period of broken play around halfway when both sides contrived to lose possession looked very scrappy. With both teams expecting the referee’s whistle to end the mayhem, Bridgwater moved the ball left. There was more than a suspicion of a forward pass in movement before the ball reached Saliarelis on the Drybrook 10m line. His powerful run took him through or past many would-be tacklers on his way to scoring under the posts. Ashwin converted easily for a 15-10 lead.
Drybrook threw everything into their final attacks but Bridgwater defended stoutly, aided by a couple of penalties.
With 43 minutes showing on the stop watch, the visitors put together a great move and Stevenson thought he had scored. He and his team were distraught when the referee awarded Bridgwater a penalty for crossing. Bridgwater kicked to touch and that signalled the end of the game.
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Bridgwater may have won the game and recorded the double over their visitors but it was Drybrook who played the better rugby on the day and probably deserved the points.
Bridgwater will have been happy to win and help skipper Ollie Dunn celebrate his 100th 1st XV appearance but they will not be happy at the manner of the win. The pack lost two scrums on their own ball and a couple of line outs went awry. Too many passes went astray – perhaps the pass receivers need to lie just a shade deeper and run on to the ball. There was some very penetrative running by backs and forwards but the team will need to up their game when they visit Ivybridge in two weeks time. Ivybridge will be smarting from a heavy defeat at Bideford who have now overtaken Camborne, who lost heavily at Thornbury. The sea-siders are now in fourth place, hot on the heels of Bridgwater.
Bridgwater and Albion.
Tries. Heal, Sariarelis
Nick Francis, Rob Allen, Stu Heal, Chris Ashwin, Arg Saliarelis, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, Jordan Brodley, Matt Hastie, Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Rob Thompson, Dan Kemmish, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Nick Spellissy.
Replacements (all used), James Bryant, Joe Stradling, Garryn Basson.
Referee : Nick Heath (Somerset Society)