Bridgwater & Albion completed the double over a plucky Cleve side to leapfrog Sidmouth and climb one place to 9th in the league table. Bridgwater needed a four try victory and to prevent Cleve gaining a bonus point to make absolutely sure of keeping their place in this league. They did well but could not quite manage this, only gaining four points with one for the home side, but they should now be safe. Cleve have visits to Paignton and Sidmouth – both beatable teams – to complete the season whilst Bridgwater hosting Clevedon and visiting Cullompton will be looking to avenge earlier defeats by both teams. The other team equal on points with Cleve is Oldfield Old Boys who still have to play Chard and Camborne.
Bridgwater gave a starting debut to Lovejoy Chawatama as Christian Preece has returned to Caribbean where on April 7th he is playing for Barbados against Curacao in the NACRA Caribbean Championship North Round 1.
The tensions of their relative league positions seemingly got through to players of both sides as the game, whilst being very exciting and nail-biting, was littered with errors.
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Bridgwater survived a scare in the third minute when home fly-half Nathan Huntley intercepted a Bridgwater pass in his own 22. It took a very good cover tackle to bring him down a mere five metres from the Bridgwater line.
Bridgwater hit back and Joel Clark set off on a coruscating 40m run that eventually came to nothing when the ball was lost.
Bridgwater opened the scoring after nine minutes. A loose Cleve kick out of defence was fielded by Clark. He set off on a diagonal cross-field run. Stuart Heal changed the angle of attack, hitting the line at speed. He broke through and handed on the Rob Allen who still had a lot to do but he reached the line for an excellent try. Heal converted with a good kick.
Bridgwater’s normally reliable line-out was not always functioning at 100% which was frustrating for players and supporters.
Cleve scorned an easy penalty in the search for a try and following a five metre line out, they drove over the line but could not ground the ball. From the resulting scrum, home skipper, Sam Roach, drove over the line but Cleve were penalised for crossing.
After 22 minutes, Huntley broke clean through the Bridgwater rush defence and handed on to centre Shack Adjuwa who crashed over near the posts. Huntley missed the conversion.
Bridgwater were now looking shaky and when they lost the ball once again in midfield, home scrum half Ricky Jones, broke clear but was stopped just short of the line.
Cleve continued to press and following a good move going left from a line-out, Jones crossed the line for a try converted by Huntley to take the lead 12-7.
Bridgwater hit back and were awarded a series of penalties in the home 22. They tried but could not get their second try and had to be content with an angled penalty from Heal to make it 12-10 at the interval.
Early in the half, Bridgwater lost both Ollie Dunn and Nick Spellissy to injuries, replaced by Mitch Windsor and Nick Northey respectively.
Bridgwater retook the lead when Heal, now with the breeze behind him, kicked a 45m penalty.
Midway through the half, Ashley Honeywell became the third casualty to retire and was replaced by Dunn who had made a partial recovery.
Bridgwater drove hard at the home line and Lovejoy Chawatama got over but was adjudged to not have grounded the ball correctly.
After 27 minutes, the ball shot out of the side of a ruck on the Bridgwater 10m line. Allen picked it up and set off along the touchline. Arg Saliarelis was in support and carried on Allen’s good work to score near the corner. Heal’s conversion was leisurely and almost charged down but it was wide.
In the final ten minutes, Huntley kicked a short-range penalty to set up a nail-biting finale. Almost at once, Dan Kemmish charged down a Cleve clearing kick but just failed to touch it down before it crossed the dead ball line. The final score was another Heal penalty again from 45m to make the final score 15-21.
Coach, Kevin Innalls, was not pleased with the standard of play but happy enough with the result. Bridgwater lost too many lineouts during this game and also conceded far too much turn-over ball. To be fair, it was difficult to see the ball at times. The ground was so dry and dusty that clouds of dust were kicked up at every passage of play. They could learn a lesson from their hosts with regard to winning the kick-offs. Bridgwater tend to kick too deep whereas Cleve produced high hanging kicks that gave their pack a chance to gather the ball with a lively chase.
Next week, in the final home game of the season, Bridgwater welcome Clevedon, one place and five points better in the league table. At Clevedon in December, Bridgwater lost a close game 3-8 and will be looking for revenge. In the Clevedon ranks we are likely to renew acquaintances with two former Bridgwater captains, Steve Hunt and Ben Purcell, as well as Alistair Blundell and former coach, Nick Hill. The game will kick off at 3-00pm.
Tries: Adjuwa, Jones
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Allen, Saliarelis
Pens: Heal (3)
Bridgwater Starting Team: Stu Heal, Joel Clark, Rob Allen, Ashley Honeywell, Arg Saliarelis, Simon Martin, Dominik Griffin, Lovejoy Chawatama, Matt Hastie, James Bryant, Rob Thompson, Dan Kemmish (Capt), Tom King, Ollie Dunn, Nick Spellissy.
Replacements: Gary Saunders (unused), Mitch Windsor (for Dunn 42), Matt Northey (for Spellissy 42)
Referee: Andrew Clune (Dorset & Wilts)
Match report by Tony Pomeroy, Photographs by Ben Pomeroy