BY TONY POMEROY
This game was brought forward so that it would not clash with Bridgwater Carnival on November 7th and was the only league match played this weekend.
With second in the league hosting the league leaders and both sides unbeaten, something had to give in this the first ever meeting between the two clubs. It was the home side, Bridgwater, who came out on top against a very physical Newent side who contested right to the final whistle.
By scoring four tries to two, Bridgwater also gained a very valuable bonus point whilst Newent returned home to Gloucestershire with nothing to show for their efforts. Bridgwater leapfrogged Newent to lead the table by four points but having played a game more than most other clubs.
For Bridgwater, James Martin returned at full back after two visits to Twickenham and Chris Ashwin had recovered from injury. James Bryant and Ethan Trebble-Westlake also returned with Adrian Tew and Luca Ercolani dropping to the bench. Also returning from injury was hooker Gabriele Nobili replacing Tom Hillman who was injured himself last week.
Bridgwater opened the scoring after three minutes when Chris Ashwin landed a 30m penalty. They then put the visitors under enormous pressure and eventually visiting flanker, Lee Warren, was binned for a cynical scrummage offence.
Bridgwater continued to hammer the Newent line and when the ball was moved right, fly half Jervis Manupenu just managed to sneak over in the corner for an unconverted try. He was injured in the act of scoring and a few minutes later, departed the field to be replaced by flanker, Luca Ercolani. Ashwin moved in to fly half with Rob Allen in the centre and Trebble-Westlake moving to the wing.
On the half hour, Taylor Buller increased the home lead when he burst over from a lineout for a try converted by Ashwin.
Approaching half time, Bridgwater scored what could be the try of the season. From a scrum on halfway the ball went right to fly half, Ashwin. He executed a sublime pass wide to James Martin , hitting the line at speed somewhere near the opposition 10m line.. His pace took him through several attempted tackles and he crossed the line wide out before cutting in to score under the posts. Ashwin’s conversion gave the home side a 22-0 interval lead.
Newent attacked with renewed vigour at the start of the second period but could not break down a resolute home defence until the 15th minute when second row Dan Fletcher crashed over wide out for an unconverted try.
Newent kept up the pressure and mid way through the half, narrowed the gap with a penalty kicked by skipper, Ross Webb.
Bridgwater hit back and achieved only their second bonus point of the season when Rob Allen, who had run forcefully all afternoon, crashed over in the corner. Ashwin converted with a superb kick. Newent did not lie down and when Bridgwater lost control at the back of a lineout, flanker George Phelps scored their second unconverted try.
Bridgwater lost scrum half, Tom Fournier-D’Albe with a nasty finger injury and No 8 Taylor Buller, bleeding profusely from a head wound as well as flanker Luca Ercolani to a yellow card in the final minutes but held out for a comprehensive and well-deserved victory.
Overall, this was a very solid performance from the home side who were ‘up’ for the game. Skipper, Ollie Dunn, led from the front and was in the forefront of both attack and defence. The forwards were very solid and disrupted many Newent scrummages and also won more linesout than were lost. In the loose, ball retention was good and the backs moved fluently with James Martin exhibiting what we had missed in his recent absence. Defence was solid, repulsing many good passages of play from the visitors.
This was a very good team performance, enjoyed by the sizable crowd, who gave the victors a rousing reception at the final whistle. Next week, the team travel to the seaside to meet Weston super Mare and will be looking to maintain their position at the top of the league.
The Somerset Cup quarter final against Cup holders, Hornets, will almost certainly be played on October 31st, at College Way, with an early kick off to allow players and spectators to watch the World Cup Final starting at 4-00pm.
Bridgwater & Albion
Tries : Manupenu, Buller, Martin, Allen
Cons: Ashwin (3)
Pen : Ashwin
Tries: Fletcher, Phelps
Pen: Ross Webb
James Martin, Rob Allen, Chris Ashwin, Garryn Basson, Oscar Tregenna, Jervis Manupenu, Tom Fournier-D’Albe, James Bryant, Gabriele Nobili, Joe Bussell, Ali Blundell, Dan Kemmish, Ethan Trebble-Westlake, Ollie Dunn (Capt), Taylor Buller.
Replacements all used : Adrian Tew, Luca Ercolani, Rob Thompson
Referee : Wayne Davis (Somerset Society)