Bridgwater’s second string welcomed Castle Cary to College Way looking to build on their impressive, unbeaten, start to the season and orchestrate some pay back after last season’s disappointing results against Cary.
With a number of players returning to action this week throughout the club, the second team fielded a much changed side. Dave Norman returned to the front row and Josh Sturdy moved from the flank to his more frequented position of hooker. George Sluman and Jay Owens returned from the first team with the former captaining the side from the flank and the latter finding himself at outside centre. Olly McGeown returned from injury to play at scrum-half and Alex Newman was available again to play at inside centre. Last weeks’ centre partnership of Garryn Basson and Dan Lang were pushed to the wings with James Kerry completing the back three. Matt Ranson and Joe Stradling joined Gavin Knight to complete the bench.
Cary won the toss, played with the relatively strong wind and had a strong start. Bridgwater absorbed the pressure and won a series of penalties allowing them to clear their line. The breakthrough eventually came though after some scrappy ruck defence, a trait that had so far not been seen by the team this year. A Cary player simply burst around the side of the ruck and cantered in from the 22 metre line. The conversion was the first of six(ish) missed kicks in the game, showing what effect the elements had on the kickers.
Bridgwater regrouped, fought their way into the opposition 22 and won a lineout. The driving maul travelled a strong 15 metres and the pack made it over the try line only for Sturdy to be held up. With further lacklustre defending from Bridgy, this time in the tackle area, Cary worked their way up the pitch with ease. A kick deep into the home sides 22 left James Kerry isolated and unable to clear his lines. The Cary attacking support were far quicker to the ensuing ruck than the Bridgy defence and they were rewarded with a second try in the corner. The kick pinged off the upright to take the score to 0-10.
Bridgwater seemed to wake up at this point and started fronting up in the contact area. Some fine individual breaks from John Hill (showing no signs of fatigue from his night shift) and Alex Newman allowed Bridgy to carve their way up the field. During one such particular run from Newman he effortlessly ran around his opposite man, drew in the fullback and released Dan Lang down the wing into fresh air. The try was a dead cert, but alas, the referee deemed the pass forward and bought the ball back for a Cary scrum. Scrummaging was one area of the game that Bridgwater will be happy with as, for the majority, they were dominant throughout and didn’t allow Cary to build any sort of platform from it. After a number of battering forward phases Ollie Steward managed to get over the whitewash to score Albion’s first try. The wide kick was missed taking the score to 5-10. Albion’s poor defensive effort continued and a routine tackle in midfield was missed to gift the visitors an easy try from 50 metres out taking Castle Cary’s lead to 15-5. The extras were missed again as both kickers continued to battle the wind.
Albion had some further good attacking play but during another burst down the wing, Lang injured his ankle and was unable to resume. He was replaced by Matt Ranson 2 minutes before half time who went to scrum half with Olly McGeown moving to the wing. Cary had a scrum on their own 5 metre line which Bridgwater made a nightmare. With the shunt on, the fly half received scrappy ball and looked up to find Ranson, flanked by Windsor and Sluman, in his face. The pressure proved too much and he missed the ball with his attempted kick. Sluman scooped the ball up about an inch from the line to score what will probably be the easiest try of the season. The final act of the half was another missed conversion to take the score to 10-15.
The second half resumed with Bridgwater finally upping their defensive game and a more competitive game ensued. Part way through the second half, Stradling replaced Sluman. Man of the Match Newman went on another of his mazy runs, threw in some dummy switches rounded the winger and sprinted in a good 40m to the try line. He was tackled there by the full back but, with a big stretch, managed to dot the ball down over the line. John Hill managed to slot the wide and fairly challenging conversion as the first successful kick of the game to take Bridgwater in front for the first time in the game 17-15.
Cary didn’t like being behind and immediately came back firing. They attacked hard and fast and after their forwards sucked in some defence with a number of phases they released the backs. The ball was passed swiftly to the opposite wing and in the effort to stop him crossing the line Olly McGeown tackled high. Too high for the referees likes and a penalty try was awarded. McGeown himself was lucky enough to stay on the field and escape further punishment. The simple kick was slotted meaning Cary retook the lead 22-17.
The Bridgwater boys rallied again and strung together a very attractive and skilful passage of play which began with Garryn Basson cutting off his wing for a lovely switch with Ranson. He carried the ball strongly into contact and came out the other side. As the full back came across to tackle him he performed a slightly outrageous basketball-esque pass over the top to Stradling who was in support. Not to be outdone by his fellow team mate, Stradling performed an almost carbon copy and equally outrageous pass over the winger to Kerry. Kerry eased over the last 20m to score next to the posts. Hill duly added the extras and Bridgwater once again had the lead 24-22.
Gavin Knight replaced Sturdy at hooker for the remainder of the game. With the game drawing to a close, Cary attacked. They were looking for a try that would not only seal the win but also give them the bonus point. Bridgwater defended using every means possible, including some tactics which were judged to be against the laws of the game. Twice they conceded penalties within their own 10-metre line and were fortunately twice let off the hook by the challenging kicking conditions. But in what was the last play of the game Newman was pinged for not rolling away. He was, rather pointlessly, sin binned for his actions and Cary slotted the penalty to take the win.
A harsh blow to the Bridgwater side, whom experienced a taste of their own medicine after winning in a similar fashion the week before. They will undoubtedly be extremely disappointed with their defensive performance. It was well below the standard which has been seen from, and is expected of, the team this year. They will need a good week at training to rectify these mistakes as they prepare to host league leaders and the only remaining unbeaten team Hornets II.
Team: Kerry, Lang, Owens, Newman, Basson, Hill, McGeown; Norman, Sturdy, Tew, Page-Symonds, Lewis, Sluman (Capt), Windsor, Steward
Reps: (All used) Knight, Stradling, Ranson
Tries: Steward, Sluman, Newman, Kerry
Conversions: Hill (2)