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Paignton RFC 5, B&A RFC 40 (30/03/13)

| 11/04/2013

With this emphatic win over fellow league strugglers, Paignton Saxons, Bridgwater & Albion celebrated skipper, Dan Kemmish’s 250th game in celebratory style. It also helped to erase the memory of Paignton’s win at Bridgwater early in the season.

Paignton, who sacked their coaching staff a couple of weeks ago, were thoroughly outplayed in all aspects of the game as Bridgwater played some very expansive rugby, often tearing the home defence apart. The pitch, which was under over a foot of water last weekend, had made a remarkable recovery although it was covered in so much sand that it resembled the nearby beach.

Bridgwater had first use of the slight breeze and put the home side under pressure from the start. When Paignton were offside at a ruck, Stuart Heal opened the scoring with a 27m penalty after 4 minutes. Ollie Dunn, back to full fitness, made a searing 45m break that should have led to the opening try but he did not see his support players and was tackled short. The compensation was a second Heal penalty after 9 minutes.

Bridgwater continued to dominate the play with the forwards doing very well and Heal showed he was human by narrowly missing a wide-angled penalty – his only miss of the day. A long penalty kick to touch saw Bridgwater on the attack again and player/coach Simon Martin got over the line only for the referee to rule ‘ball held up’. Video evidence would disagree with this decision but in general, the referee Will Thomas, a West-Walian in the Devon Society, had an excellent game and proved himself to be one of the better referees we have seen this season.

Bridgwater, who were slipping into old bad habits of dying with the ball instead of looking to offload the scoring pass, increased their lead with another Heal penalty.

The first try came after 33 minutes. Rob Allen who had run hard all the game without being able to score eventually broke through several attempted tackles and his run that started close to halfway, ended up with a fine solo try under the posts. Heal converted easily. Minutes later, Allen was over again after a great move started by Simon Martin but once again, no try was awarded. Video evidence again failed to corroborate the decision. However, from the 5m scrum, Martin’s handling was nothing short of miraculous as he caught a loose pass and handed on to Nick Spellissy who scored wide out. The conversion was no problem to Heal and gave Bridgwater a 0-23 half time lead.

Bridgwater started the second half with another short-range penalty by Heal but it was to be a further 20 minutes before the next score. Paignton came back into the game and put Bridgwater under a lot of pressure but the Bridgwater defence was very solid. Watching Paignton was like watching Bridgwater earlier in the season when very often possession and territory was not turned into points. On one occasion the home side managed to massacre a 3-1 overlap with poor handling.

Into the final quarter, an Allen break out of defence led to a penalty for the visitors kicked deep into the home 22. The ball eventually reached Joel Clark who powerfully broke through several attempted tackles for the third try, again converted from wide out by Heal.

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Paignton hit back and again butchered a great scoring opportunity. With six minutes left, Clark received the ball inside his own half. He set off in a determined fashion and broke through several attempted tackles. His coruscating run took him to the other side of the field where he handed on to Dunn. The flanker drove at the home line and slipped the ball back to Clark who scored possibly the try of the season to gain the four-try bonus point. Heal had an easy conversion.

In the final move of the match, with Paignton again pressing, Bridgwater were penalised 5m from their own line. Scrum half, Andy Sandercock, took the kick quickly and dived over the line for a consolation try. Poustie’s conversion attempt hit the post. The final whistle blew and Bridgwater’s large travelling band of supporters could start the celebrations.

It was not just that this was a five point win that delighted players, coaches and supporters, but it was the way the win was achieved. With a kicker they can trust, penalty points are being gathered to give them a platform on which to build and early points seem to settle to team. All eighteen players played their part to the full. The lineout was very solid all afternoon and despite losing one scrummage, the forwards all did well. The backs looked very sharp both in attack and in defence. They are all such strong runners that they cause defences problems – if only they could conjure up that defence-splitting pass then there would be more victories like this.

Next week, Bridgwater visit Cleve, who are now five points behind Bridgwater. In the game at Bridgwater, in appalling conditions, Cleve led 3-0 for much of the game only for Bridgwater to snatch the game with a late try. Another five point victory will see the spectre of relegation finally banished as the Mangotsfield-based side could not then catch Bridgwater. Should teams end the season level on points then, to separate them, the first area to look at is the number of wins achieved. If Bridgwater win next week they will then have 10 wins and Cleve will not be able to exceed nine.

In two weeks time, Bridgwater entertain Clevedon in the final home game of the season, kicking off at 3-00 pm.

Paignton Saxons: 
Try: Sandercock

Bridgwater & Albion 
Tries: Allen, Spellissy, Clark (2) 
Cons: Heal (4) 
Pens: Heal (4)

Bridgwater Starting Team: Stuart Heal, Joel Clark, Rob Allen, Ashley Honeywell, Arg Saliarelis, Simon Martin, Dominik Griffin, James Bryant, Matt Hastie, Christian Preece, Dan Kemmish (Capt), Matt Northey, Tom King, Ollie Dunn, Nick Spellissy.

Replacements: Lovejoy Chawatama (for Bryant 51), Rob Thompson (for Northey 53), Gavin Knight (for Hastie 74)

Referee:  Will Thomas  (Devon Society)

Match report by Tony Pomeroy, Photographs by Ben Pomeroy

Category: 1st XV News, Previews / Reports -XV

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