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JOIN THE SONICS AT WEMBLEY NEXT SATURDAY

Next Saturday (November 5), international Rugby League returns to Wembley Stadium with a double-header of matches from the Gillette Four Nations. First, plucky Wales take on reigning World and 4 Nations champions New Zealand, before the afternoon’s main attraction – a full-blooded encounter between England and arch rivals Australia.

A large party of Bristol Sonics fans, players, friends and relatives will be making the trip to Wembley next Saturday and you can join us. There are a small number of extra tickets and seats on the coach available on a first come, first served basis. The price for a ticket (which includes entrance to both games) and return coach travel will be around

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SONICS SET FOR GRAND FINAL CHALLENGE

Bristol Sonics are preparing for one final tilt at glory this weekend, with familiar foes Leicester Storm standing between them and a first ever Cooperative Rugby League Conference Midlands Premier title.The two sides will lock horns for a fourth and final time this season in Saturday’s Midlands Premier Grand Final at Aretians RFC, Patchway, Bristol.The Sonics surged into this year’s final thanks to a storming nine-match unbeaten run in which they defeated Storm twice – including a 50-10 win in Bristol – and ended the title hopes of hotly-tipped Northampton Demons with a 34-18 victory at Aretians a fortnight ago.When the two sides met in a ‘dress rehearsal’ in Leicester last weekend, the match had to be abandoned early in the second period following a serious leg injury to young Bristol forward Gary Carpenter. The scores were tied at 10-all at the time.The game was also marred by bad tempered exchanges between the two sides, with experienced Bristol forward Wes Rodgers surprisingly sent off for his part in a brawl instigated by Leicester’s former Sheffield Eagles forward Greg Hurst. Rodgers is now sweating on the date of a disciplinary hearing to see whether he will be cleared to play in Saturday’s showpiece final.Bristol Sonics’ Director of Coaching Karl Fearnley has called for calm on Saturday, asking his team to ‘rise above it’ and show the form that has made them hot favourites to clinch their first Midlands Premier title.Fearnley said: ‘I’m expecting a tough battle on Saturday and we’ll have to be at our very best to beat Leicester. They’re a solid side with a big set of forwards who play a tight game. If they get anywhere near our line they’re dangerous – we need to make sure that we don’t give them a sniff by defending well and playing the game in their half.’We know they’ll come to Aretians and try to knock us off our game plan by slowing down the play-the-ball and other frustrating tactics. We need to just rise above it, stick to our game plan, control the ball and let the game take care of itself.’Fearnley faces a few selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s final, with how to reshuffle his pack of forwards the first priority. With Gary Carpenter unavailable and Wes Rodgers awaiting news from the disciplinary, Fearnley could switch Wayne Cochran to prop alongside regular interchange Dave Leach. With second-rowers Matt Douglas, James Pritchard and Joe Coghlan also unavailable, Jack Gibson and Josh Sampson are likely to start, with Tom Verber returning at loose forward.Fearnley also has to decide on his backline and half-back combination, with in-form veteran James Gross likely to start at scrum half alongside Sonics stalwart and skipper Dom Swann. Andrew Bond, Dan Evans, Marcus Brooker, Ed Tofts, Johan Schoeman, Elliot Nightingale, Sam Barker and Mike Norman are fighting for places in the backs.This time last year, Bristol narrowly lost out to Coventry Bears in ‘golden point extra time’ after a thrilling Midlands Premier Grand Final at Old Coventrians. The Sonics produced a thrilling second half of the season to sneak into their first final at the expense of Leicester Storm, only to fall at the final hurdle in an agonising extra-time period.Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann is keen to put things right on Saturday and lead Bristol to their first Midlands Premier title. Swann said: ‘Last year’s final loss has been a huge motivating factor this year. We were so close to producing what would have been a big upset in that final, and it hurt to lose like that in extra time. All the way through this season we’ve targeted this final, and it means so much to us. It’s a huge day for the club.’Bristol have previously won a regional West Midlands title via a Grand Final, beating Burntwood Barbarians in a thriller in 2007. The following year, Bristol made the national RLC Regional Final, losing out to Doncaster’s Thorne Moor Marauders in Derby.Leicester, on the other hand, will be playing in their first RLC final on Saturday.Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole has attended each of the club’s finals since their inception in 2002. He’s relishing a first ever final in Bristol. Cole said: ‘It’s a brilliant feeling to be able to host a final, as all our other finals have been played elsewhere. Traditionally we have a great record at home and rarely lose. I’m a little nervous, but very excited – it should be a terrific day!’Cole also called on local sports fans to get behind the Sonics this weekend: ‘If you’ve got no plans on Saturday, get yourselves to Aretians. I know the lads would appreciate your support, and the club certainly will. It promises to be an exciting match, with the promise of some great rugby. Entry is free and Aretians will be running a bar. Come and cheer on one of Bristol’s most successful sports teams!’Bristol Sonics squad (17 to be selected on the day):Dan Evans, Mike Norman, Ed Tofts, Marcus Brooker, Andrew Bond, Elliot Nightingale, Sam Barker, Johan Schoeman, Dom Swann, James Gross; Wes Rodgers, Harry Marson, Wayne Cochran, Josh Sampson, Jack Gibson, Tom Verber, Dave Leach, Dan Wegryzn, Wijnand Wormhoudt.

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GROSS HAT-TRICK STUNS SWINDON

A hat-trick from stand-off James Gross inspired Bristol Sonics A to a nailbiting 30-26 victory over local rivals Swindon St George on Saturday – a win that lifts the Sonics to second in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference West of England division.The Sonics’ seconds trailed 22-20 with 15 minutes of a scrappy game remaining, but late scores from Gross and winger AJ Currie secured the points and helped avenge a 28-26 defeat at the hands of Swindon earlier in the season.Bristol found it hard to gain any rhythm in attack and were repeatedly punished for lapses in discipline by referee Kenneth Lee. Despite showing flashes of real quality the Sonics found it hard to put away a Swindon side that fought hard to gain only their second win of the season.Swindon started the game brightly, taking advantage of uncharacteristic handling errors from the Sonics. On 10 minutes the home side took the lead, Mike Thompson forcing his way over from close range after a series of soft penalties from referee Lee. Warren Broadley slotted over the conversion to give Swindon a 6-0 lead.Referee Lee was in the thick of the action again on 20 minutes, when Swindon try-scorer Thompson was sin-binned for a punch on hard-running Sonics second-rower Chris Carter. Moments later Lee also sin-binned Bristol prop Wayne Cochran for dissent, after the burly forward had been pulled back for taking the resultant penalty too quickly.Bristol responded better to being a man down, and quickly built up a six-point lead. First James Gross surged through a huge gap in the home side’s defence to touch down between the sticks – Andy Parsons converting – before Matt Douglas found enough space to score unopposed after a neat pass from Parsons. The latter slotted over his second conversion of the afternoon to give Bristol a 12-6 lead.Now on the front foot and looking dangerous, Bristol made several line breaks that could have resulted in tries. A powerful surge from centre Andre Samura ended with a loose pass to winger Currie, while full back Josh Craven and prop Ryan Hall all went close.Swindon made the Sonics pay on 35 minutes, when Richard White took advantage of more cheap penalties from referee Lee to burrow his way over from acting half-back. Broadley converted to leave the sides level at 12-apiece at half time.Early in the second period the Sonics once again took the lead, winger Connor Batt strolling over out wide after a great right-to-left hands move on the fifth tackle. When James Gross sprinted 60 metres to grab his second try of the afternoon 10 minutes later, it looked like Bristol had finally taken control of the game.Referee Lee struggled to keep control of the game when an all-in brawl erupted moments later. Despite punches swinging, no further action was taken by the whistle-blower.Now fired up, the home side hit back hard and two quick tries from centre John Kassani – again following a series of penalties from Lee – and a single conversion from Broadley gave them a slender two-point lead with 15 minutes remaining.Bristol struggled to keep control of the ball and looked to be heading for the first defeat in four matches. But a flash of brilliance from stand-off Gross on 73 minutes restored their lead. The veteran half back somehow managed to create enough space to break through the line. Although he was tackled by Swindon’s full-back, it wasn’t enough to stop him reaching out and placing the ball on the whitewash. Andy Parsons’ brilliant conversion from wide left gave the Sonics a vital four-point lead. Two minutes later the Sonics all but sealed the points with a thrilling try out wide. On the fifth tackle, the ball was quickly moved to winger AJ Currie, who showed great skill to dive over in the right corner, inches from the touchline.

Swindon managed to pull one try back in the 79th minute through Ben Bridson to raise hopes of a miraculous comeback, but Bristol held out for a vital victory. The Sonics now sit second in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference West Of England division table behind runaway leaders Gloucestershire Warriors, with Wiltshire Wyverns in third. Bristol Sonics A host Gloucestershire Warriors next Sunday, knowing a win would all but guarantee them a home tie in the play-offs.Bristol Sonics A coach Aran Simm said: “The boys showed a lot of spirit today to get the win, but it wasn’t a great performance. I take a lot of positives from the fact that we grinded out a result, but we’ll have to play better than that if we’re going to challenge Gloucestershire Warriors for the regional title.”