This was another game that Bridgwater could, and perhaps should, have won. Yet again Bridgwater had more than their fair share of possession and territory but could not turn them into points. One of the main failings was the seemingly aimless kicking either downfield or, even worse, directly into touch. The frustration of the travelling support was all too obvious from the comments overheard on the touchline.
Clevedon coach, Nick Hill, was delighted with his team’s win but agreed that the game was so tight that it could have gone either way.
Bridgwater welcomed back Rob Allen after injury and Nick Spellissy and gave Tom King his first start in place of the injured Matt House. Player coach, Simon Martin, started at fly half with Dominik Griffin moving in to replace the absent Roger Drabble.
The game was a tense affair with both sides conscious of their precarious league position. Mistakes abounded from everyone on the field but it led to an exciting game.
Bridgwater had the better of the opening minutes. They scorned a penalty chance by opting for a kick to the corner but could not make it count. Clevedon made their intentions plain when James Bryant, an innocent bystander at a maul, was cynically taken out off the ball and injured in an incident unseen by the referee.
On their first visit into the Bridgwater 22, Clevedon were awarded a penalty kicked by Mike Taylor to give them the lead after 9 minutes. Stuart Heal was well wide with an equalising attempt five minutes later but was on target from ten metres when Clevedon were blatantly offside at a ruck. Bridgwater supporters wondered why a yellow card was not shown to the miscreant as Bridgwater had a clear scoring opportunity. At the same time, Clevedon lost skipper Tom Thie with a mouth injury to be replaced by Harry Knowles.
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Knowles only remained on the field for eight minutes as he himself was also injured and replaced by James Davis.
Play flowed from end to end with neither side looking likely to score until, with the last kick of the half, Taylor was wide with a 25m penalty attempt.
Martin was replaced by Mitch Windsor at half time with Heal moving up to fly half, Ollie Dunn into the centre and Will Kerry back to full-back.
Heal had a chance to give Bridgwater the lead early in the half but his kick was well wide of the posts. Clevedon upped the pressure and following a series of attacks during which Bridgwater were penalised frequently, Matt Hastie was sent to the sin bin. Windsor then gave way for Rob Prescott to play at hooker.
Despite the man advantage, Clevedon could not score as Bridgwater defended well. Bridgwater replaced Doug Page-Symonds with Matt Northey to bring fresh legs onto the field and when Hastie returned to the fray, Prescott moved to loose-head prop with James Bryant taking a break.
The deciding score came after 27 minutes when from a scrum 10m from the Bridgwater line, Dave Rawle picked up and cruised in for a try, to the delight of the home supporters. Taylor’s conversion hit the near post.
Bridgwater threw everything into attack in the final minutes. A great break by Garryn Basson and Will Kerry spelled danger for the home side but Bridgwater could not break a resolute home defence and were condemned to a narrow defeat.
Bridgwater spectators were very vocal in their criticism of referee, Will Quibell’s performance but the referee referred to it as passionate support of their team in discussions after the game.
Several times during the game, the backs, with Rob Allen to the fore, looked to be on the point of breaking through as they ran strongly at the home defence, but it held firm. The forwards also ran well with ball in hand and were reasonably secure in the set pieces.
The defence was generally secure, slipping just once when Clevedon scored their try.
Bridgwater wanted much more than the one bonus point they obtained. At the half way point in the season they are still in the relegation zone but only one win away from safety. They are too good a side to be relegated again.
Once they learn to turn possession into points they will shoot up the table. Next week, they are at home to North Dorset, the bottom side in the league, and will be looking for a bonus point win. They are then due to host Weston SM in the Somerset Cup but the date of this match has not yet been confirmed.
League fixtures resume after the holidays with a visit to league leaders, North Petherton, on January 5th in a game that should not be missed. A very large crowd is expected.
Bridgwater & Albion
Bridgwater Starting Team: Stuart Heal, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Will Kerry, Tom King, Simon Martin, Dominik Griffin, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Christian Preece, Rob Thompson, Doug Page-Symonds, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn, Dan Kemmish (Capt).
Replacements all used: Rob Prescott, Matt Northey, Mitch Windsor
Referee: Will Quibell (Bristol Soc)
Match report by Tony Pomeroy