Match report by Tony Pomeroy
On a beautiful day for rugby, with the sea breeze negating the effect of the slope of the pitch, Bridgwater deservedly did the double over the east Devon side.
Bridgwater brought in veteran scrum half, Matt Ranson, for his first 1st XV match for many years.
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With Bridgwater given first use of the slope, early exchanges were fairly even as Sidmouth did not look like a side doomed to relegation. Home centre, Harry Chesterton, made a searing break deep into the Bridgwater 22 but the ball was lost. Sidmouth then stole a Bridgwater line-out, an all too frequent occurrence during this game.
The visiting pack then began to assert their strength which was to become a dominant feature of the game. A couple of driving mauls were held up just short of the home line and when Sidmouth were penalised close to their own line, Bridgwater opted for the scrummage.
A clean hook and a powerful drive saw the scrum driven over the home line and Tayler Buller fell on the ball to register the first score. Stuart Heal’s conversion was just wide.
Home skipper, Dan Retter had a good chance with a 35m penalty but pulled it well wide.
Following a 40m driving maul, yet another Sidmouth offence deep in their own 22 saw flanker Beau Henrickson yellow-carded. Heal kicked the resultant penalty, though he missed another a few minutes later.
Bridgwater could not make numerical advantage count further although James Brakes was tackled into touch almost on the line when a try seemed certain.
Rob Allen and Nick Francis combined well with a flowing 50m move that eventually came to nothing. However, as the home side were restored to full strength, Bridgwater hammered away at the home line and eventually moved the ball left for Nick Spellissy to get an unconverted try.
Two more searing individual 50m breaks, first from Allen and minutes later from Francis could have brought scores, as could another attempt at a push-over try, but the half time score remained at 13-0.
The second half started worryingly for the visiting supporters. Bridgwater seemed strangely lethargic after the break. They were penalised at the first scrummage – very surprising as they had been so dominant in this phase throughout the first half – and Retter narrowed the gap with a 38m penalty.
Then, Ali Blundell was yellow-carded for a technical offence in the ‘red zone’.
Sidmouth managed to butcher a very good scoring chance before they got a somewhat controversial try. At a scrummage deep in the Bridgwater 22, the seven man visiting pack drove Sidmouth back and the scrum turned 180 degrees. The home side were allowed to pick up the ball and, with Bridgwater’s forwards now behind him, flanker Rhys Thomas crashed over for a try converted by Retter to close the deficit to 10-13.
Bridgwater began to awaken from their slumbers, suddenly realising they could be in trouble. The pack began to exert the control they had shown earlier in the game.
A series of scrums close to the home line had to be reset until, when Bridgwater were again stopped illegally as the pack drove towards the home line, Gloucester referee, Tim Chandler, lost patience with the home side and awarded Bridgwater a penalty try converted by Heal.
Bridgwater finished strongly in the final ten minutes. Francis continued running well from full back and Allen actually touched down, only to be recalled for a colleague being offside.
The bonus point try arrived just before the final whistle. Livewire flanker, Ollie Dunn stole a loose ball some 40m out and found his path to the line totally unimpeded as he cruised in for a try converted by Heal.
Bridgwater will be satisfied with this bonus point win. The dominance of the pack in scrummages and the loose formed the foundation of this performance but they may have to ponder the number of lineouts lost. The backs, particularly Nick Francis with a number of amazing coruscating runs and Rob Allen with his powerful running, caused the Sidmouth defence many anxious moments but this was generally a good team performance.
The side have a week off before entertaining one of the promotion favourites, Hornets, who are currently in second place in the league, two points behind St. Austell but with a game in hand.
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries: Buller, Spellissy, Dunn, Penalty Try
Cons: Heal (2)
Bridgwater Team: Nick Francis, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Jon Hill, James Brakes, Stuart Heal, Matt Ranson, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Dan Kemmish (Capt), Nick Spellissy, Ollie Dunn, Tayler Buller
Replacements all used: Scott Woolford, Joe Stradling, Simon Martin
Referee: Tim Chandler, Gloucestershire