After a few scares along the way, Chard exacted revenge for their defeat at Bridgwater earlier in the season. The South Somerset side extended their winning run to five matches as they continued their climb up the table. Bridgwater continue to hover just above the relegation zone and drop one place behind Cleve who had a narrow win over North Dorset.
Chard looked much the livelier side in the opening period as Bridgwater found it hard to get their hands on the ball. Twice in the opening minutes Chard showed confidence in their pack by opting for scrums instead of a penalty and a free kick. However Bridgwater’s defence was good enough.
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After 12 minutes, Chard broke the deadlock. A driving maul eventually reached the Bridgwater line and Lee Massey was credited with the try. Paul Nicholls converted with a good kick.
Chard continued to play much of the rugby and a very good back row move from a scrum almost brought the second try but Bridgwater’s defence held out. After 21 minutes, yet another driving maul saw the second try for Chard following a 5m lineout. This time, hooker, Simon Jenkins got the unconverted try.
From the kick off, Chard were offside at a maul. The penalty to the corner led to the inevitable driving maul this time resulting in a Bridgwater unconverted try by Matt Hastie.
A penalty by Nicholls extended Chard’s lead before a third try, this time for prop Nick Hyslop was also converted by Nicholls.
Bridgwater brought on Stu Heal at full back for the injured Ashley Honeywell and Lovejoy Chawatama replaced Hastie to bring more bulk to the pack.
Joel Clark excited the visiting supporters with a coruscating run that took play deep into the home 22. His reward was to be subjected to some very cowardly hair-pulling by the home defence. However, Bridgwater had the last laugh as the resulting penalty to touch set up yet another driving maul with Nick Spellissy credited with the try converted by Heal making the half time score 22-12.
As the rain began to fall, Bridgwater started the second period much the stronger. They had territorial advantage and a lot of possession but could not reduce the lead until Heal landed a short-range penalty after 18 minutes.
Nicholls missed a long range penalty following a Bridgwater scrum infringement and then Bridgwater kicked to touch deep into the Chard 22. The home side panicked and kicked the ball away to prevent a quick throw and were rightly penalised. Bridgwater scorned an easy three points and opted for touch and a driving maul. They cleverly shunted the maul infield and then over the line with Chawatama touching down under the posts. Heal’s conversion with 15 minutes left brought the scores level.
Then came a controversial moment as a long Bridgwater kick to the Chard line was touched in flight, by an attempted charge down, before it was touched down in goal. The referee deemed that the touch by a Chard player was not deliberate and awarded Chard a 22 drop out instead of a 5m scrum to Bridgwater. How an attempted charge down of a kick can be regarded as not a deliberate playing of the ball is outside my comprehension. This decision could have had a profound effect on the final result and even on the league table at the end of the season.
Chard kicked long from the drop out to set up pressure on the Bridgwater line. They set up yet another rolling maul and a second try, this time unconverted, for home hooker, Jenkins, took the home side into a 27-22 lead.
Chard were pressing as the game entered injury time and Ollie Dunn was yellow-carded for over-enthusiastic defence.
Deep into injury time, Chard had a 5m scrum and replacement James Twigg crashed over under the posts to give Nicholls an easy conversion as the final act of the match, denying Bridgwater a deserved losing bonus point.
This was a game that could have been won. All the tries came from set pieces within five metres of the line. Back play was difficult as the rain made the ball very slippery.
Bridgwater will have a week off next week before hosting high-flying Camborne on Feb 23rd.
Tries: L Massey, Jenkins (2), Hislop, Twigg
Cons: Nicholls (3)
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Hastie, Spellissy, Chawatama
Con: Heal (2)
Bridgwater Team: Ashley Honeywell, Joel Clark, Rob Allen, Will Kerry, Arg Saliarelis, Dominik Griffin, Roger Drabble, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Christian Preece, Matt Northey, Rob Thompson, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn, Dan Kemmish (Capt)
Replacements all used: Lovejoy Chawatama, Mitch Windsor, Stuart Heal
Referee: Roger Gilson (Somerset Society)
Match Report by Tony Pomeroy, Photographs by Ben Pomeroy