Bridgwater’s second string hosted Midsomer Norton for their first game of 2014. In the reverse fixture it was Midsomer Norton who took the greater of the spoils by besting Bridgwater 20-13.
As has often been the case this season Bridgwater selected a youthful side with six teenagers in the starting 15 and 10 players under the age of 22. With first team call ups for Woolford, John Hill and captain Stradling, holes needed to be filled. Moulding and Marsh started in the front row with Ward coming it at fullback and Brakes moving to outside centre with Sluman leading the side.
It was a scrappy affair that had all the signs of the first game back from the Christmas break. On a day with favourable conditions there were far too many handling errors from both sides leading to a very stop-start game. Bridgwater started the stronger of the two sides and looked to gain an early advantage, pinning Norton back in their own 22. The pack was held up with the ball over the line twice in quick succession and when the backs were released a routine pass was knocked on in the attempt to break the deadlock.
Norton were able to relieve the pressure and Bridgwater didn’t really get much possession for the rest of the first half. The defence held strong, putting the weeks training around the ruck area into good practice but the deadlock was finally broken with Norton dotting down in the corner with the last play of the half. The conversion was missed making the half time score 0-5.
Coach Ranson decided to add even more experience to the front row and brought Norman on for Lipscomb. Sturdy moved to the back row to allow Norman to slot in at hooker. Normans presence had an immediate effect and Bridgwater started to get the better of the Norton pack at scrum time pushing the opposition back and often stealing the ball against the head.
It didn’t take Norman long to get on the score sheet and after some good forward phases around the ruck he powered his way over the line. The conversion was missed levelling the score at 5-5.
Norman and Hill attempted to tackle a Norton player at the same time. The referee judged the tackle dangerous breaching law 10.4(e) and resulted in Hill spending 10 minutes in the bin. While Hill had his 10 minute rest, Ward covered him by moving from fullback up to scrum half.
Norton quickly took advantage of the numerical difference and made several line breaks. Bridgwater’s scrambled defence were penalised for hands in the ruck. A quick tap penalty and some neat offloading saw Norton score next to the posts. The simple conversion was slotted to take the score to 5-12.
Bridgwater conceded more penalties as their over eagerness saw them creeping offside. Norton made their way up the pitch with considerable ease and once they were in range took a shot at the posts taking the score to 5-15
Bridgwater though were not done. They finally had a penalty of their own to take advantage of and took a quick tap in their own 22. Some swift handling from Sluman, Satchell and Owens saw Barnett released into some space. He raced along the touchline committing the fullback and giving a neat inside pass to Brakes who would have been able to cruise in to score had he caught the pass.
Another try did eventually come when Norton conceded a penalty on their own try line after some good pressure from the Bridgwater pack. It was Norman again who managed to get his hands on the ball, took a quick penalty and threw himself at the try line from 5 metres out – A classic Dave Norman try that has been seen many times at College Way. The resistance met was futile and Norman got his, and Bridgwater’s, second and last score of the game.
Norton scored another penalty in an almost identical fashion to their first taking the score to 18-10. That was to be the last score in the game despite Bridgwater’s best efforts and dominance in the scrum they cruelly missed out on even a losing bonus point. They will be looking to get back to winning ways next week when they travel to Old Sulians who are just one place behind in the standings.
Team: Ward, Barnett, Brakes, Owens, Lang, Smith, T. Hill; Moulding, Sturdy, Marsh, Foggin, Burtenshaw, Lipscomb, Sluman (Capt), Satchell
Reps: (All used) Norman, Buck, Willis
Tries: Norman (2)