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LAST-GASP SONICS DENY WARRIORS

Bristol Sonics’ second team produced a stunning second half comeback to earn a deserved 26-all draw with local rivals Gloucestershire Warriors and grab their first league point of the season.The Sonics trailed 20-10 at half time and were 26-14 down with 15 minutes of a pulsating game remaining, but a trio of late tries – including a score to level the match with two minutes remaining

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SONICS SECONDS TAKE CENTRE STAGE

Bristol Sonics’ second team will take centre stage this Saturday (28 May), as they look to avenge a recent defeat by local rivals Gloucestershire Warriors at Aretians RFC (kick-off 2.30pm, free entry).With Sonics’ first team having a deserved week-off because of the Cooperative Rugby League Conference Regional Championships on Monday, 30 May, attention turns to the club’s fast-improving second team – and a tasty local derby with old foes Gloucestershire Warriors.When the two sides met a fortnight ago, it was the Warriors who came out on top. While the Sonics seconds led 12-10 after 15 minutes, they were torn apart out wide either side of half time and finished off losing 66-22. This Saturday, Bristol Sonics A will be looking for an improved performance – and a first ever Cooperative Rugby League Conference West of England Division victory.Since the two sides last locked horns, the Sonics seconds have picked up their first win of the season – a 54-18 friendly win over Somerset Vikings – and will go into Saturday’s home game with Gloucestershire full of confidence.Bristol Sonics Director of Coaching Karl Fearnley may use this week’s ‘A’ team fixture to give a run out to some fringe first team players, in a bid to top up their fitness and game time ahead of the club’s big showdown with fellow RLC West Midlands title hopefuls Northampton Demons on June 4. Fearnley and second team player/coach Arran Simm have also made it clear to Sonics’ A-teamers that a good performance could be enough to elevate anyone into first team contention.Fearnley said: “Already this season we’ve promoted two or three players from the second team to the first team, based purely on performances. Both winger Mike Norman and utility forward Peter Butcher started in the seconds, played brilliantly, and were given a first team chance. This is what we want to see – competition for places. I’m looking for the team to go out and put in a performance on Saturday – to put their hands up and say ‘pick me’.”

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DOUBLE-HEADER OF RUGBY LEAGUE IN BRISTOL THIS SATURDAY

Rugby fans in Bristol are in for a treat this Saturday, when Bristol Sonics – the city’s Rugby League club – presents a double-header of matches at Aretians RFC, Little Stoke.Fans heading down to Aretians have a chance to watch two games back-to-back for free, starting with a friendly local derby between Bristol Sonics A and Somerset Vikings at 1pm. With Bristol and Somerset in different Cooperative Rugby League Conference divisions, this is the only chance fans will have to watch the two clubs clash this season. It’s also the first time the teams have met in a competitive fixture for some years.Following the Sonics A-Somerset game, fans will be able to watch Bristol Sonics’ in-form first team take on Cooperative Rugby League Conference West Midlands rivals Leamington Royals for the first time (kick-off 2.30pm). Sonics’ first team have been in great form so far this season, notching up back-to-back high scoring victories over Birmingham Bulldogs and Telford Raiders. Bristol will be looking to cement their place at the top of the West Midlands Qualifying table with another big win.Bristol Sonics Director of Coaching Karl Fearnley said: “Saturday should be a great day for Rugby League in Bristol, with fans able to check out our new-look first and second teams ‘back to back’, totally free of charge. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how our A side matches up to Somerset Vikings. Although results haven’t been great for the seconds so far this season, a lot of the players are new to Rugby League. They need time to adapt and learn the game. Saturday’s match gives them a great chance to gain more experience ahead of their next RLC game on the bank holiday weekend.”Fans wishing to take in some of the action this year can find a full list of Bristol Sonics’ home fixtures, for both the first and second team, on www.bristolsonics.com. Entrance to all home matches at Aretians RFC is always free.

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MIXED FORTUNES FOR BRISTOL SONICS

Cooperative Rugby League Conference West MidlandsBristol Sonics 52 – 12 Telford RaidersCooperative Rugby League Conference West Of England DivisionGloucestershire Warriors 66 – 22 Bristol Sonics ABristol Sonics piled on the points against Telford Raiders at Aretians on Saturday to continue their fine start to the season, but there was less good news for the club’s second XIII.While the firsts were racking up ten tries against a youthful Telford team, Sonics’ seconds succumbed to a 66-22 away defeat at Gloucestershire Warriors – the club’s biggest loss to their local rivals in three seasons.There were no such worries for Bristol’s first team, who were in total control throughout against a well organized but relatively inexperienced Telford side who fielded 10 players under the age of 20. The Sonics could have scored within the first minute, but dropped the ball with the line begging. The Raiders then wasted a great opportunity to put Bristol under pressure after forcing a goal line drop-out, only to see Sonics centre

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SONICS’ SECONDS EYE HISTORIC GRAND FINAL BERTH

Bristol Sonics’ second team will be looking to secure a historic first Cooperative Rugby League Conference West of England Division Grand Final berth when they take on Swindon St George at Aretians this Sunday, August 7 (k.o 2.00pm).In their first ever season, the Sonics’ seconds are 80 minutes away from qualifying for their first ever divisional Grand Final – and a shoot-out against old foes Gloucestershire Warriors on Sunday, August 14.Should the Sonics’ second-teamers beat local rivals Swindon St George this Sunday to set up a re-match with unbeaten Gloucestershire Warriors, it will be a historic feat. Very few Cooperative Rugby League Conference clubs run two teams within the national competition, and no club has ever had two teams in separate divisional Grand Finals in the same season. With the Sonics’ firsts preparing to contest a second Midlands Premier Grand Final on Saturday, August 13, a win for the seconds this weekend would set a new record.FIrst, though, the Sonics’ seconds must overcome a Swindon St George side who should prove more than a match for Bristol’s mix of Rugby League novices, seasoned veterans and youngsters. While Bristol won the last bad-tempered encounter between the sides at Swindon RFC, St George caused an upset by beating the Sonics’ seconds on their own patch back in May. Both games were close, tight affairs and Sunday’s contest should be no different.Bristol Sonics A player/coach Joe Singleton expects a tough battle: “We’ve done incredibly well this season, but at times we’ve had to do it tough. On Sunday we’ll have to play at the top of our game to get through. We’d all love to get to the regional Grand Final in our first season as a team, especially as the firsts are in their own final the day before. It could be a perfect weekend for the Sonics, but there’s still a hard 80 minutes ahead before we can start thinking about that.”Because the Sonics’ seconds finished above Swindon St George this season, they get home advantage in Sunday’s play-off game. The match, which is free to attend, kicks off at 2.30pm.Tomorrow (Saturday 6th August), Bristol Sonics’ first team makes the long journey to face Leicester Storm in what looks like a dress rehearsal for the Midlands Premier Grand Final. While Bristol have already qualified, Director of Coaching Karl Fearnley has warned his team not to take their foot of the gas.Fearnley said: “I said to the players before the start of the Midlands Premier phase of the competition that I wanted to see five wins out of five. So far, we’ve won three, played really well and got better each week. Last week we were a little off the boil at times, but we ground out the result. Leicester are always difficult at their place and tomorrow will be no different. I don’t want players thinking it doesn’t matter, because we’ve still got the final to come. Every game matters. If we are going to face Leicester the following week, we don’t want to give them the boost of beating us – we want them wondering how they can beat us.”The Sonics have won both of their previous games against Leicester this season, including a recent 50-10 hammering at Aretians.Fearnley will have to make do without scrum half Joel Keen, with in-form full-back James Gross likely to deputize. The returning Dan Evans should slot into full-back.Bristol Sonics face Leicester Storm at Stoneygate RFC, Leicester, on Saturday 6th August, kick-off 2.30pm.

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MISSED CONVERSIONS COST SONICS IN LAST-GASP CLASSICS

Missed touchline conversions proved to be Bristol Sonics undoing on Saturday, as both open age teams slumped to narrow two-point defeats in nailbiting contests at Aretians RFC.The Sonics’ first team were edged out 32-30 by high-flying Northampton Demons, but came within a width of a post of grabbing a sensational draw thanks to four tries in a pulsating final 15 minutes.Bristol Sonics’ second string led Cooperative Rugby League Conference West Of England Division leaders Wiltshire Wyverns 16-6 at half time, but couldn’t hold on to their lead and fell to an agonizing 28-26 defeat – despite scoring late to give themselves a chance of securing a second successive league draw.Report by Matt Anniss, photos by Richard May