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BARFC 2nds 22, Keynsham 2nds 15 (06/12/14)

| 07/12/2014 | Reply

With a league break last weekend, a number of Bridgwater’s second string found themselves travelling with the first team to play Weston in the Somerset Cup. For those involved it proved to be valuable experience and for others it was a weekend to rest and ease some of the knocks acquired in this years’ campaign so far. Today however, Bridgwater welcomed their counterparts from Keynsham and if league position was anything to go by, Bridgwater would have been expecting a big W.

Bridgwater fielded a much changed side from the tough game against Bristol Barbarians a fortnight previous. Second team regular Doug Page-Symonds was called up to the first team and was replaced in the second row by Joe Stradling who had a fine game playing out of position. The only other change in the pack was the return of George Sluman to skipper the side from the flank. The backs however were a different story. Jon Hill started the game in his usual position of scrum half with Jay Owens moving from the centre to fill in once again at fly-half. Outside of Owens were 5 recognised wingers, with Dan Lang and Drew Shaw playing in the centres and James ‘Forrest’ Brakes, Ryan Barnett and James Kerry as the back three. Sam Russell made a welcome return to Bridgwater on the bench with Mitch Windsor and Dave Norman.

The game, and Bridgwater’s performance, had many similarities to the closely fought encounter with Castle Cary, where Bridgwater failed to play to their full potential. Keynsham came out of the blocks with a bang and within the first few minutes had dissected the Bridgwater defence with a simple move resulting in a converted try under the posts 0-7. This was a rude awakening for the home side whom responded in an ideal fashion. After a good kick off from Owens and some strong forward phases, Gary Saunders pulled a number of defenders into his orbit and released Stradling into some space. Stradling cantered in form 20m with ease and dotted down under the posts. The straight forward conversion was slotted by John Hill levelling the scores at 7-7.

Bridgwater won a penalty 10m out and spurned the chance to kick for posts, choosing instead to flex their muscles and assert their dominance at scrum time. The scrum powerfully drove over the line but Ranson was unable to control that pesky egg-shaped ball at the back of the scrum and the opportunity to score went begging. Bridgwater remained in the Keynsham 22 and won another scrum. This time, forwards and backs linked well and when Kerry drew in a number of defenders causing an overlap in favour of Bridgwater, the elusive second try seemed certain. Unfortunately, he was unable to get the clinical pass away and the try went begging again.

Bridgwater won a penalty in front of the posts and 40m out. With Hill eyeing up the potential kick at posts, his decision and job became significantly easier. The visiting scrum half decided it would be beneficial to his team to argue with the referee and tell him how to manage the game. Unfortunately for Keynsham, the man in the middle didn’t agree and marched them back another 10 metres. Hill bisected the posts with his effort and Bridgwater took the lead 10-7.

Almost immediately Keynsham won a penalty in Bridgwater penalty. The ‘busy’ scrum half this time gained an extra 10m by quickly taking the penalty and running a the Bridgwater defence who had failed to retreat the required 10m quick enough. The scores were again levelled at 10-10.

Half time came and went with no further scores. The stalemate was eventually broken by Forrest. Keynsham changed wingers and Forrest fancied his chances against his suddenly much smaller opposition. When the ball reached him he put pedal to metal and ran over his opposite man, barely slowing. He sprinted in from half way, rounding the full back and generously scoring under the posts. Hill nailed the conversion again taking Bridgwater to 17-10. Sam Russell replaced Gav Knight with Sturdy moving to hooker and Russell slotting in the back row.

Keynsham were next with a points scoring opportunity but the penalty attempt was spooned wide. After some energy sapping pressure, they were eventually rewarded. A charged down kick fell kindly to the visiting team who reacted quickest and grounded the ball over the try line. The wide conversion was also missed meaning Bridgwater had the narrow lead 17-15.

Keynsham were not yet done and exerted further pressure on the Bridgwater line. The boys held firm and repelled the attacks. They fought their way into the opposition half where Sluman made way for the eager and fresh legs of Windsor. Bridgwater won a penalty and kicked long to the corner. Tom Lewis had a fantastic game, demonstrating a plethora of tackling techniques – smashing an opponent and leaving him requiring medical attention as well as performing a deft tap tackle. Despite his extensor tendon injury, or more comically named mallet fingers, he battled well in the air to catch the line out. The drive that ensued was almost collapsed by the determined Keynsham defence who were happy to stop the drive in any means possible. Bridgwater slowed, shifted the ball and reset the maul hammering the opposition over the line and scoring out wide. Stradling was accredited with the try and unfortunately the wide kick was missed, 22-15.

Bridgwater defended stoutly for the final few minutes and were relieved when the final whistle sounded. Coach Ranson spoke after the game,

“Sometimes you have to win ugly!”

That summed the game up and it can’t really be described in any other way. Bridgwater will have to perform better next week when they travel to Crewkerne in the final game of first half of the season. It’s a big game with Crewkerne sitting in 6th and with Chew Valley only 4 points ahead of Bridgwater in 2nd place. The two sides will meet in the final game before Christmas and if Bridgwater can keep in sight this weekend, it will give them the opportunity be 2nd for the Christmas break.

Team: Kerry, Brakes, Shaw, Lang, Barnett, Owens, Hill (Jnr); Saunders, Knight, Woolford, Stradling, Lewis, Sturdy, Sluman (Capt), Ranson
Reps: (Used) Russell, Windsor
              (Unused) Norman

Tries: Stradling (2), Brakes

Conversions: Hill (2)

Penalties: Hill

Category: 2nd Previews / Reports -XV, 2nd XV News

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