Bathed in sunlight, the North Dorset pitch looked to be an excellent surface on which to play rugby. Bridgwater certainly enjoyed it as they romped to their first away win for some time.
Bridgwater & Albion bounced back from their unexpected home defeat last week to take maximum points from their visit to newly-promoted North Dorset.
Once again, Bridgwater dominated much of the game and benefited from four yellow cards shown to home players by referee Ian Bibey, refereeing Albion for the second successive week.
Bridgwater gave a league debut to loose head prop, Matt (Taff) Ruddle, who acquitted himself well.
Early Bridgwater pressure earned a penalty for Matt House from fully 10m out but it was to be his only success with the boot as more penalties and all the conversions went astray. Such profligacy may prove more important in other matches.
With the home side down to 14 men, a poor North Dorset clearing kick was returned with interest. The ball was fumbled by the home defence in their own 22 and the old poacher, Matt Hastie, gathered cleanly and scored with such a flamboyant dive that it earned 9.7 for artistic merit from the Russian Judge.
A rare North Dorset attack was repulsed when Garryn Basson showed a cool head and averted the danger.
After 26 minutes, Hastie took a quick penalty deep in his own half. The play moved up-field at bewildering pace and a second yellow card was issued as the home defence was at sixes and sevens. However, they managed to hold out as twice Bridgwater crossed the home line but could not ground the ball.
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With half time approaching, Bridgwater tried a new tactic – passing quickly to the winger. It worked and Toby Payne scored in the corner to register his first try for the club.
Into injury time, skipper Dan Kemmish left the field with a rib injury and Bridgwater were guilty of taking their foot off the pedal.
North Dorset were awarded a penalty 5m from the Bridgwater line. Sloppy defence let Charley Jobling in for a try. Robbie Sampson converted and added a penalty to make the half-time score 10-13 and perhaps a little flattering for the home side.
Bridgwater started using rolling replacements for the second period but continued to dominate.
A very late defensive tackle by the home side on Toby Payne was rightly penalised. The kick to the corner gave Albion a lineout, duly won by Matt Northey. A powerful forward drive took them over the home line where Matt Hastie was awarded his second try of the afternoon.
A scything Rob Allen break was halted by an excellent defensive tackle for the home side as Bridgwater went searching for the four try bonus point. However, it came eventually and it was a carbon copy of the third try but this time touched down by Nick Spellissy. The travelling Bridgwater supporters were ecstatic with the bonus point!
North Dorset had not read the script because they came back at Bridgwater with an excellent move which saw full-back, Jay Westcar, put clear on the left wing. His pace took him past the defence and he scored under the posts giving Sampson an easy conversion. The 17-23 score made for a frantic ending as both sides strived for victory.
It was left to Man of the Match, Hastie to seal the win. He sprinted down the right touch line deep in the home 22 but was tap tackled. Bridgwater kept control of the ball for two more phases of play and when it was moved right it was Matt Northey who dived over in the corner to the obvious delight of his team mates and supporters and seal a 17-28 victory.
It was clear that the players and coaches had worked very hard at training to eradicate the errors of the previous game. No Bridgwater player had a poor game but mention must also be made of Rob Thompson, who made a lot of yards with the ball in hand, Nick Francis who was very lively at scrum half and then wing and the evergreen forwards, Matt Northey, Nick Spellissy and Dan Kemmish.
The defence was much tighter, as shown by one Ollie Dunn tackle that brought audible gasps from the crowd at the ferocity of the impact.
With the local derby with North Petherton at College Way next week, this result will put Bridgwater in good heart. They cannot afford to be complacent, one victory does not define the season, but winning away is a fine tonic for the players. North Petherton are unbeaten so far this season and College Way will be no place for the faint-hearted as Bridgwater will be out for revenge for their Somerset Cup defeat last season. Come early so as not to miss anything.
Tries: Jobling, Westcar
Cons: Sampson (2) Pen: Sampson
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Hastie (2), Payne, Spellissy, Northey
Bridgwater starting team: Ashley Pippard, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Matt House, Toby Payne, Dominik Griffin, Nick Francis, Matt Ruddle, Matt Hastie, James Bryant, Matt Northey, Rob Thompson, Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn, Dan Kemmish (Capt)Rolling replacements – all used at various times – Gavin Knight, Joe Stradling, Roger Drabble.
Referee: Ian Bibey, Dorset & Wilts
Match Report by Tony Pomeroy