Bridgwater’s second string welcomed Crewkerne to College Way on a rather blustery day that played havoc with the ball whenever it was in flight. With wins for both teams the previous week, confidence was high with both sides thinking they could better the last encounter which saw the spoils shared with a well fought 12-12 draw.
Bridgwater welcomed back both Joe Stradling and Ashley Pippard from first team duty at number 8 and fly-half respectively. With Jay Owens gallivanting off with England Colleges, Nick Smith moved out to the centre with the versatile Jonathan Frost filling the bench.
Crewkerne won the toss and elected to play with the wind in the first half. Early in the game Bridgwater were committing far too many to the ruck and Crewkerne were looking dangerous with overlaps out wide. Bridgwater probably should have conceded on a number of occasions but a combination of good scrambled defence and bad handling in the poor conditions let them off the hook.
Pippard kicked well from hand despite the head wind, relieving a lot of pressure and gaining back some valuable territory. Some quick hands from Bridgwater saw Ryan Barnett in some space on the wing and he set off down the touchline. In the first of many strong runs from the young winger, he breezed past a number of attempted tackles and could have put Stephen Ward away for the first try of the game when he committed the full back. However, Barnett chose to try and run through the last line of defence and was halted rather abruptly. Luckily for Bridgwater the opportunity was not lost and a few phases later Burthenshaw powered his way over the line. Pippard could not really be blamed for missing the conversion in the difficult wind from out wide.
Bridgwater’s pack more renowned for their speed, fitness and mobility rather than raw power were again looking strong in the scrum and have been so since the return from the Christmas break. On the opposition put in, Bridgwater demolished the scrum and stole the ball but somehow only managed to contribute their part in a stalemate on their own put in. Unfortunately the same could not be said for all of the set pieces. Bridgwater’s lineout failed to function to expectations. This however was not helped by the strong wind and, although marginally better, the Crewkerne lineout struggled as well.
Bridgwater survived some late pressure in the first half to go in at halftime 5-0 up. With Bridgwater now playing with the wind, their lead was doubled soon after the second half began. When Crewkerne failed to defend properly at a ruck, Tim Hill sniped around the side a passed to Stradling. He carried the ball forward strongly, committing the fullback and off-loading to Josh Sturdy in the tackle. Sturdy surged towards the line and dived from 5 metres out. He achieved some considerable hang time and glided through the air like an eagle before crashing back to the ground to extend the score to 10-0.
For the second time in two weeks, Bridgwater failed to close the game out. They opted instead to let Crewkerne back in the game and make it hard for themselves. The first of Crewkerne’s tries was a well worked overlap. They pounded the Bridgwater line with the forwards and only some great (and rather desperate) tackling kept them out. Once Crewkerne had sucked all the defenders in they unleashed their backs to simply pass down the line and let the extra man dot the ball down over the line. Following Bridgwater’s example, the extras were missed taking the score to 10-5.
After the try the wind really picked up and constantly changed direction making handling, especially lineouts, even harder. Crewkerne now only 5 points short ran strongly at Bridgwater and slowly made their way up the pitch. On numerous occasions, Bridgwater’s rapid line speed saw the referee award advantages in Crewkerne’s favour. The defence seemed to be able to cope but when they made an absolute nightmare of two lineouts in quick succession Crewkerne capitalised on the mistakes and powered over for their second try. The fourth missed conversion of the game saw the scores levelled at 10-10.
The energy sapping conditions required some much needed fresh legs. Dale Walker and Ben Lipscomb replaced Jason Moulding and Rhys Satchell. The heavens suddenly opened and produced what felt like hurricane conditions with sideways hailstones.
Bridgwater then had a spate of winning lineouts, throwing a few straight to Nick Ball at the front of the line and then setting up a driving maul which travelled over 20 metres before coming to a stop. The demolition of Crewkerne’s scrum won Bridgwater a penalty just offset of the posts about 25 metres out. Pippard was confident despite the wind and he successfully knocked the penalty between the sticks with four minutes left on the clock.
As expected, Crewkerne came back out of the blocks flying but Bridgwater held on and Hill booted the ball to the other side of the second pitch (just to make sure) to end the game. Another hard fought win from the young Bridgwater side which now sees them within a win of both Crewkerne and Wellington. However another potential bonus point dropped with the failure to capitalise when ahead. A habit that needs to be stopped before it is more than a bonus point lost. The second team travel to Wells next week in the rearranged fixture from 4th January looking to make it 3 from 3.
Team: Ward, Barnett, Dickinson, Smith, Lang, Pippard, Hill; Ball, Sturdy, Moulding, Foggin, Burtenshaw, Satchell, Sluman (Capt), Stradling
Reps: (Used) Walker, Lipscomb (Unused) Frost
Tries: Burtenshaw, Sturdy