Match report by Tony Pomeroy
This was the first ever match at any level between these two clubs and the honour of the first victory went to the visitors. As an exhibition of rugby, this was not a good advertisement and much of the play matched the drab mistiness of the afternoon. The game only really came to life in the final ten minutes.
Bridgwater had intended to field an unchanged side but were forced into a late change when Matt Hastie was delayed en route to the ground. Josh Sturdy started at hooker with Hastie on the bench.
Bridgwater showed the more attacking intent for much of the first half but were continually repulsed by a solid Drybrook defence. On one of the few occasions that Bridgwater did create a breakthrough, Sturdy could not take the final pass with the line at his mercy. Even with a man advantage, when home centre Jack Simmons was yellow-carded for a dump tackle on Nick Francis, Bridgwater could not break through.
Drybrook, by keeping their line intact, grew in confidence and began to exert some pressure of their own. Somewhat against the run of play, the home side took the lead with a short-range penalty from full back Tom Treherne awarded when Bridgwater were adjudged offside.
Hastie then replaced Sturdy. Bridgwater continued to attack, with singular lack of points to show for it. On the stroke of half time, Drybrook worked their way deep into Bridgwater territory. Hastie was penalised – and sin binned – and Treherne should have doubled his side’s lead but fluffed a relatively easy penalty to leave the score a scintillating 3-0 at the interval.
Bridgwater introduced Chris Ashwin at half time, with Stu Heal taking a break.
Drybrook started the half at breakneck pace, hammering away at the fourteen man defence but Bridgwater held firm.
With Hastie back on the field, Bridgwater laid siege to the home line. Eventually, they were awarded a very kickable penalty but opted instead for a scrum. They duly won the ball and spun it right, through a few pairs of hands until it reached Nick Francis on the right wing who registered the first try of the day after fifty-five minutes. Ashwin’s conversion attempt from the touchline was narrowly wide.
Bridgwater then brought on Adrian Tew for James Bryant at loose-head prop.
Drybrook lost the plot when Gloucester referee, Nick Palmer, appeared to miss a huge knock-on by Bridgwater. Their comments earned them a lecture and also conceded a penalty. Moments later, the referee needed treatment when he was the filling in a sandwich at a tackle and received an accidental blow to the head.
Approaching the final ten minutes, Drybrook got their act together and exerted pressure in the visiting 22. They were awarded a penalty and took it quickly. Garryn Basson tackled the ball carrier well within the ten metre zone and was duly sin-binned. Treherne regained the lead for his side with his second simple penalty.
From the kick off, Drybrook attempted to run the ball back at Bridgwater. However, Bridgwater skipper, Ollie Dunn, who had an immense afternoon, was having none of it. Not only did he stop the home advance, he stole the ball. Moments later, Bridgwater had moved the ball right, through several pairs of hands, until it reached Martin who outpaced the defence to score in the corner. Ashwin converted with a superb kick to take the visitors into a 6-12 lead.
A long kick deep into the home 22 by Martin kept the pressure on the home side. Ashwin missed a moderately difficult angled penalty attempt and Martin tried a snap dropped goal attempt and Joe Bussell made a great touchline run deep into the home 22 – but the score remained the same. In the final minute, Drybrook hammered away at the Bridgwater line but the visiting defence held firm. When Drybrook lost the ball, Bridgwater were delighted to boot it into touch and record their third consecutive victory.
Drybrook’s last five matches have all been very close affairs and this was their second home defeat of the season. They had to be content with a losing bonus point. For Bridgwater, their good run continues but this is the first time since the opening day of the season that Bridgwater, gaining four points, have not achieved a bonus point.
All the Bridgwater players did their bit and shone at times. At full back, James Martin hardly put a foot wrong and looked very secure. The rest of the backs ran well with ball in hand and looked solid in defence. Ollie Dunn, ‘birthday boy’ Nick Spellissy and Dan Kemmish frequently caught the eye in tight and loose. The scrum was solid but the line-out occasionally creaked. One cause for concern was the number of times driving mauls from a lineout were correctly stopped by the referee for accidental offside as Drybrook withdrew from contact with the maul. We must develop a strategy for dealing with this.
Despite this win, Bridgwater have dropped below North Petherton in the league. Whilst the clubs each have 29 points and Bridgwater have a far better points difference, North Petherton have won one match more than Bridgwater and so, under league rules, are placed higher in the league.
Next week, Bridgwater entertain Ivybridge, currently second in the league, but having lost their last three matches. This game, as ever, will kick off at 3-00 pm.
Pens : Treherne (2)
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Francis, Martin
James Martin, Nick Francis, Garryn Basson, Stu Heal (rep Chris Ashwin h/t), Oscar Tregenna, Jervis Manupenu, Roger Drabble, James Bryant (rep Adrian Tew 57), Josh Sturdy (rep Matt Hastie 30), Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Dan Kemmish, Taylor Buller, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Nick Spellissy.
Referee: Nick Palmer (Gloucestershire Society)