On a night perfect for rugby, a slightly disappointing crowd turned up to watch the local derby played on November 13th.
Both sides were slightly below full strength but we were served up with a match that oozed passion and commitment.
Bridgwater started strongly and took an early lead with an angled 40m penalty from Stuart Heal.
A powerful 45m run from second row, Sam Skinner turned Taunton defence into attack. Bridgwater held out against a concerted Taunton attack but were eventually penalised and Stu Townsend, later to be nominated as Man of the Match, slotted an equalising penalty.
Taunton had a ‘try’ disallowed for a forward pass and then spurned an easy three points in search of a try. Bridgwater defended well and kept the home side at bay despite losing centre Ashley Honeywell to injury. He was replaced by debutant, Jay Owens.
A second Taunton ‘try’ was disallowed under the same circumstances before a second Townsend penalty took Taunton into the lead.
Bridgwater hooker, Matt Hastie then committed one too many misdemeanours for referee Chris Newton’s liking and was sent to the sin bin. Despite much Taunton pressure, Bridgwater held out until half time.
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Early in the second half, Nick Mason broke through for Taunton but his potential scoring pass was again judged to be forward. Taunton kept up the pressure and got the first try by scrum half Jack Conway, converted by Townsend.
Bridgwater then lost their second centre, Rob Allen, and had to totally reorganise their backs. Almost immediately, Drabble now at scrum half, charged down a Taunton clearing kick to put the home side under a little pressure and from a melee on the home line, Hastie scrambled over for a try in the corner. Heal’s conversion was just wide.
Townsend’s third penalty took the score to 16-8 before Nick Spellissy, on for Matt Northey, became the second Bridgwater player to visit the sin bin following an unnecessary tackle after the whistle had gone.
Despite being shorthanded, Bridgwater narrowed the gap with Heal’s second penalty but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Immediately, Taunton attacked and the ball was passed back to Townsend. He lost the ball backwards and Bridgwater’s defence relaxed – a fatal mistake as Townsend immediately re-gathered the ball and burst through to score at the posts giving himself an east conversion.
As both sides brought on a raft of replacements, Taunton scored two more unconverted tries in the final minutes by Mason and Townsend to make the final score a convincing 33-11.
Taunton looked a fitter side than Bridgwater and fully deserved their victory to underline the two leagues difference between National League rugby and SW1W.
Bridgwater will rue the injuries to their centres but will be thankful for a ten day break before the next game at Hornets. A number of youngsters were given a brief outing from the bench and will have learned a lot from the experience.
Tries: Conway, Townsend (2), Mason
Cons: Townsend (2)
Pens: Townsend (3)
Bridgwater & Albion
Pens: Heal (2)
Bridgwater Starting Team: John Hill, Garryn Basson, Rob Allen, Ash Honeywell, Nick Francis, Stu Heal, Sam Knights, Lovejoy Chawatama, Matt Hastie, Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Matt Northey, Dan Kemmish (C), Ollie Dunn, Tayler Buller.
Reps all used : James Bryant, Nick Spellissy, Roger Drabble, Jay Owens, Dan Steward, Ollie Steward, George Sluman.
Referee: Chris Newton (Somerset Society)