Match report by Tony Pomeroy
Bridgwater cast aside the memories of two recent defeats with this eight try demolition of a Cullompton side at the bottom of the league and surely destined for relegation. There were two tries each for the Australian duo of James Martin and Matt Hastie – the latter demonstrating his skills to his visiting mother – another brace for Rob Allen and one each for Jordan Brodley – a debutant prop whose powerful running caused Cullompton much trouble throughout the game – and replacement Nick Francis. The boots of Chris Ashwin and Stu Heal did the rest.
Brodley, who was only registered to play last week, came into the side in place of flu victim, James Bryant, and he showed that he will be a very strong addition to the squad. Also making his season’s debut was Greek International winger, Arg Saliarelis, now re-registered having finished his degree course, and his powerful running showed what the team had been missing during his prolonged absence.
The side was led out onto the pitch by Dan Kemmish, making his 300th appearance in the 1st XV. His performance in this game, where he totally ruled the roost in the lineout, belied his age and was an object lesson to any young forwards watching.
Cullompton started the game with the breeze behind them and put Bridgwater under early pressure. They should have taken the lead after 3 minutes but home fly-half Matt Garner was well wide with a kickable penalty. A 50 m touch kick by Bridgy scrum half, Roger Drabble, gave the visitors field position and when Cullompton were offside in front of their own posts, Ashwin landed the simple penalty.
Cullompton hit back and a good move going right saw Garner make the initial break before handing on the centre Sam Budgett who scored an unconverted try in the corner. The home side continued to press and Garner increased their lead with an excellent dropped goal from 30 metres.
Bridgwater then began to assert their authority and a super move involving Saliarelis and Brodley, amongst others, took play deep into home territory. The ball was moved right and Martin slipped through the defence for a try in the corner. Ashwin converted with a magnificent kick into the breeze.
Minutes later, Brodley again made inroads into the Cully defence and again the ball was moved right. This time Martin put Allen away for a try in the same corner. Ashwin’s kick was again straight and true.
The next run was a great break from his own half by Saliarelis that resulted in a penalty for Bridgy. The kick to the corner was too long but Bridgwater kept up the pressure at the resulting scrum. They eventually stole the ball, again moved it to the right and Martin wriggled over near the corner for his second try, again converted by Ashwin.
The bonus point arrived on the stroke of half time. Cullompton were penalised for offside in front of their own posts and, as ever, Hastie was first to react. He took a quick tap penalty himself and hared 20m to the line before Cullompton had realised what had happened. As Ashwin shaped to kick the conversion, the ball fell off the tee. He quickly picked it up and tried a drop kick that barely left the ground to leave the half time score 8-29.
Bridgwater started the second half as they ended the first. Home number 8, Sam Harris, was sent to the naughty step for ten minutes for an offence near his own line, and almost immediately Hastie scrambled over for his second unconverted try.
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To their credit, Cullompton managed a score when short-handed as Budgett got his second try converted by replacement Adam Pearce.
Bridgwater hit back immediately and another break from Martin put Allen in for his second try of the afternoon, converted by Ashwin.
Ashwin then made way for Nick Francis necessitating a reshuffled back line with Nick Spellissy also replacing Taylor Buller.
Then came Brodley’s debut try as he took a short pass at pace and was unstoppable from 20m. Heal converted from in front of the posts. A superb piece of handling, started by Hastie deep in his own half, saw Rob Thompson hauled down just short of the home line but no score was forthcoming. Bridgwater then lost full back Martin to a leg injury which necessitated skipper, Ollie Dunn moving into a further reshuffled back line and Buller returning to action.
In the final minutes concerted Bridgwater pressure saw Francis evade defenders in a narrow space along the touchline before scoring near to the posts leaving Heal an easy conversion. Gary Saunders, a very late addition to the playing squad, replaced Joe Bussell for the final 5 minutes.
The home side had the last word when a good forward drive saw scrum half Nathan Banks driven over for a try converted by Pearce and a final score of 22-55.
The game was well refereed by former Wasps, Bath and England scrum half, Martyn Wood, from Hertfordshire, who must take some credit for an 11 try game where the players were given every opportunity to display their skills.
The forwards were very solid and the lineout performance in particular was a pleasure to watch. With ball in hand, the forwards ran well, none better than debutant Jordan Brodley who deserved his try, even though the ground announcer credited it to Dunn (the numbers 1 and 7 on the change strip do look very much alike !). The backs looked very lively with Martin, Allen and Saliarelis in particular, looking dangerous every time they had the ball. All in all it was a very competent performance to keep the players interested in their outside chance of reaching the play-offs at the end of the season. They will hope to keep up this interest and record the double over Forest of Dean side, Drybrook, who make a first ever visit to College Way next Saturday, kick off 3-00 pm.
Tries: Budgett (2), Banks
Cons: Pearce (2)
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Martin (2), Hastie (2), Allen (2), Brodley, Francis
Cons: Ashwin (4), Heal (2)
James Martin, Rob Allen, Stu Heal, Chris Ashwin, Arg Saliarelis, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, Jason Brodley, Matt Hastie, Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Rob Thompson, Dan Kemmish, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Taylor Buller
Replacements all used : Gary Saunders, Nick Spellissy, Nick Francis
Referee: Martyn Wood (Hertfordshire)