Yatton II 3 – 49 (54) BARFC II
After the disappointment of losing to 2nd place Chew Valley before the Christmas break, Bridgwater 2s were looking to get back to winning ways on the road to Yatton. Having won in the reverse fixture at College Way 34-8 and having not lost on the road this season, the pressure was on the Bridgy boys to bring a W and the points home. Bridgwater named an unchanged pack from the previous game but with last minute changes on Saturday morning, Matt Ranson was reunited with a scrum half shirt and Ollie Steward made his return from injury on the bench. He was joined by Drew Shaw and Jason Moulding, whom was promoted from the 3rd team in the morning to cover Dave Norman who picked up an illness. In the backs, Dan Lang moved from centre to wing with Charlie Johnson making his first start for the 2nd XV coming it at centre.
On arrival at Yatton, Bridgwater were informed that the 1st and 2nd pitches were both ‘waterlogged’ and unplayable. Instead the game would be played on the back marshes… I mean pitches. The referee – who had a fine game and attempted to give as much advantage as possible in the swampy conditions, awarded Bridgwater an early penalty for ruck infringements. John Hill stepped up and slotted the penalty from about 25 metres out just offset of the posts to take Bridgwater to a 3-0 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.
Bridgwater’s first try initially came from a lineout just outside the 22. They set up a quick driving maul and pushed up the hill until the maul was collapsed just short of the line. Russell spotted some weak defence at the side of the ruck, picked up and crashed over for the try, the conversion attempt was missed. Bridgwater’s second try came from a slightly more unorthodox method. James Collings received the ball at standoff and was met by a wall of onrushing defenders. With his options limited to taking a sack or putting boot to ball, he chose the latter. His rushed kick was hooked massively and seemed to be heading straight for touch. James ‘Forrest’ Brakes had other ideas though and set off up the hill in pursuit in an attempt to win the ball back. Fortunately for him, the kick somehow stayed in field and his opposite man slowed down before reaching the ball. Forrest put the afterburners on and dived down on the ball sliding over the line for 5 points. The wide conversion was missed 0-13.
Yatton then got some points of their own. After a warning from the referee, Bridgwater still attempted to get hands on the ball in the ruck. The resulting penalty from inside the 22 was successful, slightly narrowing Yatton’s deficit to 3-13. Another penalty a few minutes later could have done the same but it was hooked badly and ended short as well as wide.
Joe Stradling was next on the scoreboard courtesy of another lineout driving maul. This time, the Bridgwater pack had the maul moving so quickly they were running up the hill and struggling to stay bound. Thankfully, Stradling managed to keep control to the line before dropping down and scoring the first of his unconverted hat trick 3-18. Shortly after, he earned the second in his set in an almost identical fashion. This time however the maul was not set from a lineout and was a lot slower and Bridgwater had to carefully reset the maul twice after attempted collapses from Yatton. Not happy that the forwards were having all the fun (and staying warm), many of the backs were involved in the maul to prove they too can do some hard work. Stradling however had no plans on letting them have the ball and escorted it over the line securing the bonus point just before half time 3-23.
After half time the pack, who held their own scrummaging up the hill, managed to provide a better platform going down the hill. This allowed the backs to have a slightly faster running game and when the slippery egg was actually caught, they scythed through the Yatton defence on a number of occasions. Ten metres from the line, Collings spotted a gap and bulldozed his way through to crash under near the posts for the first try of the second half, this time Hill was successful with his conversion attempt, extending Bridgwater’s lead 3-30.
Stradling then managed to complete his hat trick, and to continue with the theme of his previous tries, it was again through a driving maul from a lineout. A strong platform was set and the pack managed to manoeuvre around the debris from the repeated attempts to collapse the maul from Yatton. The conversion was missed, 3-35. Shortly after, Stradling was replaced by Ollie Steward who was playing his first game back from injury since Bristol Barbarians. Drew Shaw also replaced Jay Owens who had a niggling ankle injury.
With Stradling now off the pitch, it was someone else’s turn to get their hands on the ball and after a nice break in midfield some scrambled Yatton defence managed to halt a Bridgwater attack on the 22. Strong running from Scott Woolford and then Gary Saunders saw the latter cross the line between the sticks. The simple conversion was completed by Hill to further Bridgwater’s lead 3-42. In the build-up Forrest had injured his shoulder whilst breaking a tackle. He was replaced by Jay Owens who re-entered the fray on the wing. Hill then bagged himself a try and showed Forrest how to bosh an opponent without getting injured when he rather uncharacteristically sent his opposite man flying after running into him. He could not convert his own try taking the score to 3-47.
The final man on the score sheet was Charlie Johnson who managed to break free of a tackle on the half way line and, despite his weary and tiring legs, managed to dive over the line under the posts to score on his first start for the 2nd XV. Hill managed to slot the kick to add the extras 3-54. Unfortunately for Bridgwater the referee did not agree with Dave Staples’ score keeping and carded the result as 3-49. The lads will have to fight among themselves to decide who didn’t actually score.
Bridgwater will be happy with their return to form after the Chrsitmas break and be glad to be back to winning ways. With the game between Bristol Barbarians and Hornets postponed, they have solidified their 3rd place league position. Next week Bridgwater host 7th placed Old Sulians who will be looking for redemption after narrowly losing to Bridgwater 18-20 on their own turf. The pack will be more than happy with their line-out performance but will want to sure up their scrummaging after today’s game. Let’s also hope that John Hill can take the advice of today’s referee and get down the training pitch to improve his 40% kicking rate before next Saturday.
Team: Hill, Brakes, Johnson, Owens, Lang, Collings, Ranson; Saunders, Knight, Woolford, Page-Symonds, Lewis, Stradling, Sluman (Capt), Russell
Reps: (All Used) Moulding, Steward, Shaw
Tries: Stradling (3), Brakes, Russell, Saunders, Collings, Hill, Johnson
Conversions: Hill (3)