Bridgwater’s seconds travelled to Old Sulians in the only match to be played by Bridgwater due to waterlogged pitches at College Way, postponing games for both the 1st XV and 3rd XV. Bridgwater successfully completed the double on an opponent for the first time this season after winning 27-14 earlier in the season.
There was one change to the starting XV from the previous week with Alex Dickinson replacing James Brakes in the centre, who had stepped up to the first team. Nick Ball made his return to the squad after a 5 week Christmas break due to a hamstring injury and the birth of his son, with the bench being completed by fellow front rows Dale Walker and Scott Woolford.
Sulians pitch looked in good condition on arrival but the saturated ground soon gave way in the warm up. For the second week in a row Bridgwater looked like they had great potential in the scrum but it was Sulians who got on the score sheet first. An early jump in the lineout from Bridgwater resulted in the referee judging the jumper to have left the lineout early on his return to the ground. From the resulting penalty Sulians took a 3-0 lead.
It didn’t take them long to put more pressure on the young Bridgwater side using a number of kicks and the sloping pitch to pin Bridgwater in their own half. Sulians eventually won a lineout close to the Bridgwater line and powered over to score in the corner. The tricky kick was missed taking Sulians lead to 8-0.
This seemed to be the wake-up call the Bridgwater side needed and with the journey out of the legs they started to take advantage of their dominance in scrum. The game went to and fro for some time with Ward looking ever dangerous at full back whenever the ball was sent his way. He made a number of counter attacks gaining good territory.
Bridgwater won a penalty and kicked for a lineout inside Sulians 22 metre line. They pulled a driving maul out of the arsenal which was straight from the training ground. They surged forward with Tim Hill adding his scrum half bulk to the maul. When the maul split close to the try line, Nick Smith not to be outdone by his fellow half back, added his own weight to push George Sluman the last metre over the line (a mere warm up for what happened later in the game). Smith then added the extras to take the score to 8-7.
In similar fashion to last week, Coach Ranson made some modifications to the front row just before half time. Both props were replaced with Jason Moulding and Damian Marsh making way for Ball and Woolford, much to the despair of Sulians front row who had been struggling anyway without the added disadvantage of fresh legs driving against them.
After half time Bridgwater’s dominance and advantage in the scrum seemed to increase every time they packed down. The pressure showed and Bridgwater quickly made their way into the Sulians 22 and opted for another driving lineout. In an, almost carbon copy of the first try, Bridgwater surged forward from the line out. Smith, in a very uncharacteristic way for a fly-half, again added his weight to the maul. This time he managed to go one better and get his hands on the ball to flop over the line. Few would argue that he finished like a natural front rower. He missed the conversion of his own try (also like a natural front rower) which meant Bridgwater now led the game 12-8.
Soon after, Bridgwater nearly scored a third try in similar fashion but it was not be. When Glenn Foggin, looking for his first Bridgwater try, lunged for the line he was harshly judged as short.
Bridgwater had spent the majority of the second half with the ball, camped in Sulians 22 but they defended admirably. On a few occasions Sulians managed to reclaim the ball and looked very dangerous breaking from deep within their own half. On one of these forays Sulians strung together some good passing shifting the ball inside and outside up the wing. It was only thanks to a great covering tackle by Dan Lang, who had sprinted from the opposite wing up the hill that halted the attack.
With the last play of the game Bridgwater elected to scrum on Sulians 5metre line. The referee gave a free kick to Sulians for an early engagement. Sulians desperately tried to clear their lines while keeping the ball in play, and with it, their hopes of stealing the game. A kick straight down the middle of the park was not dealt with well at the back. The mix up led to a Sulians player fly hacking the ball from inside his own half between two Bridgwater defenders. He was clean through with a number of Bridgwater players desperately trying to catch up. Their efforts were not enough and he hacked all the way into Bridgwater’s 22. It was then, that Bridgwater’s guardian angel came. It arrived in the form of speedster Ryan ‘Barney’ Barnett who came charging down the hill from his wing at considerable speed to just get his foot on the ball before the Sulians player could hack it over the try line. He knocked it into touch to end the game with Bridgwater taking a well-earned four points back home with them.
Bridgwater though won’t go away completely happy knowing that with the possession and territory they had, this could have been a game where a four try bonus point was a realistic outcome. The second team host Crewkerne next week and will look to build on this week’s performance and climb further up the league table.
Team: Ward, Barnett, Dickinson, Owens, Lang, Smith, Hill; Moulding, Sturdy, Marsh, Foggin, Burtenshaw, Lipscomb, Sluman (Capt), Satchell
Reps: (All used) Ball, Walker, Woolford
Tries: Sluman, Smith