Bristol Sonics began their West of England League campaign with a comfortable 62-0 victory over local rivals Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue.
The Sonics scored 11 tries in total, with fullback Mike Norman grabbing a hat-trick, and Tom and Rob Verber each claiming a brace. Player/coach Dom Swann finished with nine conversions.
Following their withdrawal from Conference League South earlier in the year, Bristol began the West of England League season in confident fashion. The 19-man match-day squad contained 10 debutants, including two graduates from the club’s successful under-16 academy team. They were joined by a raft of regulars from the club’s doomed 2014 Conference League South campaign,
The Sonics had the better of the opening exchanges, opening the scoring on six minutes via a 40-metre diagonal run to the try line from loose forward Rob Verber. Five minutes later Bristol extended their lead, Mike Norman picking up a grounded off-load from Mike Gaston to zip in underneath the posts.
Somerset hit back, and enjoyed a spell of pressure that tested the resolution of the home side’s defence. Bristol held firm, though, and edged further ahead on 25 minutes thanks to a stunning 65-metre try from Norman.
Although the Sonics held a 16-0 lead at half time, the game remained in the balance. Somerset tired quickly in the second half, though, and Bristol ran riot, notching up eight tries in the process.
Mike Gaston began the rout a minute into the half, scooping up an attempted interception from Somerset to trot in unopposed out wide. Six minutes later Rob Verber notched up his second try of the afternoon, forcing his way over from close range after some weak Vikings tackling.
Two tries in eight minutes from brother Tom Verber – the second from a brilliant slip pass from former skipper Dom Swann – extended Bristol’s lead further, before Max Woodward marked an impressive debut with a try following a surging 35 metre run down the left.
Mike Norman completed his hat-trick on 67 minutes, scooting out from a play the ball 45 metres out and rounding the last remaining Vikings defender. Another debutant was next on the scoreboard, Gerry Darley capping a fine performance with a first try for the club. The rout was completed with two minutes to go, when replacement winger Shervin Ghassemlou scorched down the wing and cut back inside, before turning Somerset’s full back and touching down in the corner.
Player/coach Dom Swann was happy with his side’s performance. He said: “I was really impressed by the team today. We defended really well and barely looked like conceding. In attack we made a few errors, but played a good, controlled game, with occasional bursts of flowing rugby. After the winter we’ve had, it’s great getting back on the field and performing strongly. There will be tougher tests ahead, but this was an excellent start.”
Attention now turns to the “open meeting” the Sonics’ have called to discuss the future of Rugby League in Bristol. The meeting takes place on Sunday 10th May at Dings Crusaders RFC on Landseer Avenue in Lockleaze, starting at noon.
BRISTOL SONICS SCORERS
T: Rob Verber 2, Mike Norman 3, Mike Gaston, Tom Verber 2, Max Woodward, Gerry Darley, Shervin Ghassemlou
C: Dom Swann 9 (from 11)
Bristol Sonics: Mike Norman, James Potts, John Jackson, Tom Oxlade, Joe Moore, Dom Swann, Mike Gaston (captain), Byron Edwards, Alex Potts, Connor Grant, Tom Verber, Joe Singleton, Rob Verber. Interchange: Simon Takape, Gerry Darley, Max Woodward, Kieran Harvey, Shervin Ghassemlou, Tristan Moore.
Somerset Vikings: Ben Williams, Zeky Cheng, Doug Caddick, Josh Wood, Cam Hellier, James Collings, Kevin Zenyama, Fergus Wood, Jay Hill, Bob Blainey, Jordan Tucker, Stephan Pierce, Joe Bossell. Interchange: Connor Crampton, John Ferguson, Ryan Sheppard, Ash Tucker.
MAN OF THE MATCH AWARDS
Sonics: John Jackson
Vikings: Joe Bossell