Bridgwater second team opted keep the bulk of the team that orchestrated a 40 point win over Old Sulians at College Way last week. They travelled to Castle Cary to take on their first team and were looking for some retribution after losing by a single point at home earlier in the season. There were three changes to the starting XV with Oscar Tregenna earning his second appearance for the second team on the wing after a lengthy period with the first team. The other changes were in the pack where Doug Page-Symonds was welcomed back from the first team into the second row allowing Joe Stradling to revert to his usual position on the flank. Ollie Steward started at number 8 with Sam Russell dropping to the bench.
Bridgwater played the first half down the considerable slope at Cary but were unable to fully capitalise on their advantageous position. A lacklustre display from the Bridgwater side saw them produce their worst performance of the season where they never really looked like they even got off the bus. Although solid as ever in the lineout they struggled in the scrum against a physically bigger pack. The lack of discipline from both sides contributed to a very stop-start but physical game. Bridgwater conceded an early penalty allowing the Cary fly half, who had a fine game with the boot, to slot a straight forward penalty and take an early lead 3-0.
Bridgwater were strongly defending their own try line and won a turnover when Jon Hill (Jnr) was clotheslined around the face after picking the ball up from the base of the ruck. The Cary player was penalised but escaped further punishment and was given a final warning by the referee. Bridgwater used the penalty as a platform and kicked to touch setting up a trademark driving lineout, stepping around the attempted collapsing of the maul all day. Forwards and backs linked well and Charlie Johnson bust through his opposite man gaining some good yardage down the hill. Eventually Bridgwater won a lineout 20 metres out and the pack rolled the maul forward. Once over the try line Gavin Knight, who didn’t know where he was for most of the game, dropped off the back scoring the first try of the game. The wide conversion was missed meaning Bridgwater had a narrow lead 3-5.
John Hill (Snr) capitalised on a long range penalty in front of the sticks and extended Bridgwater’s lead to 3-8. Bridgwater were unfortunately unable to use the significant slope more to gain further points advantage and had to settle for a half time lead of just the 5 points.
After the break, Cary came out with all cylinders firing and Bridgwater spent most of the next quarter defending inside their own 22. Cary actually crossed the line and grounded the ball during the attack but the referee was unable to award a try as he had been used as a human shield to block and attempted tackle. John Hill (Snr) cleared the lines with a punt up field when he was hit late, high and with no arms involved. Despite Cary already having received a warning about high tackles, the distributor of the illegal tackle on Hill escaped with merely a penalty against him. Bridgwater used the penalty to regain some territory and mount an attack. Scott Woolford went for a trundle but was tripped over by Gary Saunders’ head where he was lying on the ground awaiting medical treatment from Coach Ranson.
Sam Russell replaced George Sluman so Joe Stradling took the reins and pushed the Bridgy boys on. Shortly after Jon Hill (Jnr) was replaced by Matt Ranson. Cary attacked down the slope again and this time Bridgwater failed to keep them out. After numerous forward phases, Cary finally managed to force their way over the line and score out wide. The wide conversion was successful which meant the lead returned to Cary 10-8.
Oscar Tregenna stopped another Cary attack with a big dump tackle. Unfortunately for Tregenna, and Bridgwater, the referee viewed the tackle to be an illegal tip tackle. Much to Bridgwater’s surprise, a yellow card was brandished for the offence. As Tregenna was leaving the field, Hill (Snr) questioned the referee as to why Tregenna was being yellow carded for an illegal tackle when Cary had escaped a similar punishment for the same offence twice. The referee wielded his card with considerable intent toward Hill for dissent and he to trudged off.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Bridgwater 5 points behind and down to 13 men things were looking ominous for the team. The 13 remaining Bridgwater players dug their heels in and played the best rugby they had all day. They won a penalty on their own try line and with a little luck and ill-discipline from Cary, Bridgwater found themselves with a lineout 10 metres out. 1 minute remained on the clock and Tregenna and Hill (Snr) returned to the field. Bridgwater set up another driving maul and despite Cary’s best efforts to collapse it, they drove the maul over the line. Stradling dropped down in the corner and levelled the scores at 13-13. The wide conversion was agonisingly missed and with it the final whistle was blown.
Bridgwater’s performance was largely sloppy and lethargic and as a result it almost cost them the game. They did well to recover a draw in a dire situation to ensure some points were taken from the encounter but will need to vastly improve for the game in two weeks’ time against top of the table and unbeaten Hornets II’s. The earlier encounter between the two sides saw Hornets sneak a 28-22 victory meaning Bridgwater only got a single losing bonus point after scoring just three tries. The plucky and spirited Bridgwater team will be looking to end Hornets winning streak and close the gap between the two teams in the league table.
Team: Hill (Srnr), Tregenna, Johnson, Shaw, Lang, Collings, Hill (Jnr); Saunders, Knight, Woolford, Lewis, Page-Symonds, Stradling, Sluman (Capt), Steward
Reps: (Used) Russell, Ranson
Tries: Knight, Stradling
Penalties: Hill (Snr)