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SOLID SONICS GRIND OUT WIN

Marcus Brooker grabbed four tries as Bristol Sonics ground out a 32-0 win against Conference League South strugglers St Albans Centurions at Landseer Avenue.

 

The win cements the Sonics’ place at the top of the Conference League South table, one point ahead of next week’s visitors, Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, who romped to a 62-20 win over third-placed Nottingham Outlaws.

 

The Sonics began the game strongly, forcing an error from Centurions’ full back Gareth Waters following a high kick from Daniel Brooker. Following the scrum, the ball was worked left to Marcus Brooker, who slipped an offload inside to supporting runner Dan Evans, who dived over to open the scoring after just two minutes. Daniel Brooker, who would later go off with a painful hip injury, slotted over the conversion in a swirling wind.

 

Bristol failed to build on their positive opening and were soon on the back foot. St Albans ran hard, cleverly picking out perceived weaknesses in the home side’s defence. For their part, Bristol struggled to retain possession, gave away some needless penalties and spent most of the first 30 minutes defending in their own half. Thankfully, the Sonics held firm, forcing errors from their opponents in good positions.

 

In attack, Bristol were wasteful, and their lack of completion was a constant frustration for players and supporters alike. Despite a great all-round performance from hooker Rory Sharratt, who was rightly named man-of-the-match, the Sonics struggled to get any fluidity with ball in hand, and too often resorted to trundling it down the middle. On the rare occasions they did get the ball wide quickly, St Albans struggled to cope.

 

On 28 minutes, a series of relieving penalties allowed Bristol a rare chance to attack the Centurions’ line. They gleefully took the opportunity, Marcus Brooker powering his way over from close range. Brother Daniel again converted, curling the ball between the uprights to make the score 12-0.

 

Less than two minutes later, the Sonics extended their lead further. After working their way down field, Marcus Brooker again powered over from close range, this time taking several tacklers with him as he crossed the whitewash. This time, Daniel couldn’t convert, but at 16-0 things were looking pretty rosy, despite the patchy performance.

 

To their credit, St Albans didn’t let their heads’ drop, and roared back in the latter stages of the first half. They lay siege to the Sonics’ line for the last five minutes of the half, but simply couldn’t find a way through Bristol’s watertight defence. Having done the hard work setting up great field position, they lacked composure and didn’t quite have enough to cross the whitewash.

 

The arm-wrestle continued early in the second period, with St Albans making good yards down the middle and Bristol defending stoutly, despite sluggish line speed. The Sonics, for their part, continued to struggle to complete sets and still lacked some spark in attack. With scrum half Johan Schoeman off injured, responsibility fell to first team debutant Alex Potts, who earned his chance through some eye-catching performances for the second team. He seemed to warm to the play-making role as the match went on.

 

Eventually, Bristol began to enjoy more possession and field position. On 60 minutes, a rare chance to attack in St Albans’ territory ended, predictably, with another close range score for man-of-the-moment Marcus Brooker. The powerful centre again forced his way over from five metres out, just to the left of the posts, to complete his third hat-trick of the season. With Daniel Brooker off injured, Rory Sharratt stepped up to slot over an easy conversion.

 

Ten minutes later, it got better for Brooker and Bristol. When St Albans’ centre David Coyle made a hash of a poor pass from Sam Norris 10 metres from the Sonics’ line, the ball was hacked forward by Johan Schoeman. Dan Evans won the race to the ball, and somehow managed to snaffle it up before Centurions’ full back Gareth Waters. From the resultant play-the-ball, Rory Sharratt and Alex Potts combined to release Marcus Brooker on the left, 40 metres out. He swerved his way past two covering defenders before jogging away to touch down for his fourth try of the afternoon, and second four-try haul of the season.

 

With St Albans wilting, the Sonics began to find more space and make more ground with ball in hand. It took less than two minutes for Bristol to score again, Sharratt and Potts releasing Dan Evans on the right, who cut through St Albans’ defence like a hot knife through butter and cantered 35 metres to touch down. Alex Potts slotted over the conversion to make it 32-0 and complete the scoring.

 

After the game, Sonics’ coach Aran Simm was full of praise for his side’s defensive display. He said: “We struggled at times today in attack, but the lads put in a massive defensive shift and that’s what made the difference. St Albans played with a lot of heart and the half time scoreline of 16-0 to us was a bit flattering, if I’m honest. We improved as the game wore on, and deserved the win, but it wasn’t perhaps the dominant performance I’d have liked.

 

“All the lads who played today put in a massive shift. It’s rare in Rugby League that you ‘nil’ a team, and I’m told that the Sonics have only ever managed it once before. That’s something we should take from this game. Our linespeed could be a lot quicker, and we’ll need to work on that in training, but there weren’t many missed tackles and for the most part we controlled the play the ball. We’ll need to improve next week, but this is a step in the right direction.”

 

Meanwhile, an under strength Bristol Sonics ‘A’ side showed great heart in a 74-18 loss to Gloucestershire Warriors at Old Centralians, Gloucester. The Sonics second-string, which features a number of promising youngsters and committed veterans, will be hoping for a better result when they take on Somerset Vikings at home next Saturday, in a curtain raiser for the first team clash with Sheffield-Hallam Eagles.

 

BRISTOL SONICS (v ST ALBANS CENTURIONS, 29/6/13)

Dan Evans (2 Tries), James Raymond, Mike Gaston, Marcus Brooker (4 Tries), Will Tobin; Alex Potts (1 Goal), Johan Schoeman; Daniel Brooker (2 goals), Rory Sharratt (1 goal), Jack Spooner, Neil Evans, Tom Verber, Rob Verber (captain.

Interchange (all used): Curtis Asante, Joe Singleton, Gary Carpenter, Jack Gibson.

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NEW-LOOK SONICS SET FOR CENTS TEST

Conference League South leaders Bristol Sonics return to action this Saturday, when they take on St Albans Centurions in the first of three consecutive home games.

 

The Sonics have traditionally enjoyed a strong record at home, and have lost just once in Bristol this season – a 36-30 reverse to fellow title-chasers Sheffield-Hallam Eagles. With the Eagles boasting a game in hand and due to visit Bristol next weekend, the Sonics will be looking to make the most of tomorrow’s game with strugglers St Albans at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC (kick-off 2.30pm).

 

Bristol will have to do without skipper, goal-kicker and main playmaker Dom Swann, who is currently away on his honeymoon. It will be the first time this season that the Sonics have played without the inspirational Swann, who will also miss next week’s rematch with Sheffield.

 

With other regular playmakers also missing, South African Johan Schoeman returns to scrum half, with second team graduate Alex Potts likely to deputize for Swann at stand-off. Gloucestershire All Golds’ Rory Sharratt, a regular for the Sonics this season, looks set to continue at hooker.

 

Second team player/coach Aran Simm will be coaching the first team in the absence of Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley. Simm expects a tough game against a St Albans side who have won only once this year.

 

Simm said: “Despite their results, St Albans are a decent side and I’d expect them to give us a very tough game. If we’re just a little bit off our game they’ll punish us. When we last met in St Albans we won comfortably, but with players missing and new halfbacks it may take us some time to gel. We’ll only win if we play well, so we need to be on our game right from the first whistle.”

 

To encourage more spectators to come down and show their support for summer Rugby League, the Sonics are offering free entry to the game on Saturday.

 

Bristol Sonics’ Chairman Phil Cole said: “With the Rugby League World Cup coming to Bristol later in the year, there’s no better time to check out some live Rugby League. By making entrance free, we hope that many new fans will take the opportunity to check out the sport for themselves. I started out as a rugby union supporter in my youth, but was converted by the speed, excitement and intensity of Rugby League.  If you’ve not been to a live match, it’s worth checking out Saturday’s game for free.”

 

Meanwhile, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ travel to West of England League form side Gloucestershire Warriors (Old Centralians RFC, Gloucester, K.O 2.30pm) on Saturday, buoyed by an impressive win over Oxford Cavaliers last weekend.

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SONICS SALVAGE A DRAW AGAINST OUTLAWS

James Pritchard’s try 10 minutes from time helped Bristol Sonics to salvage a 22-all draw at Nottingham Outlaws and move back to the top of Conference League South.

Pricthard, playing his first Conference League South game of 2013, swooped to touch down the ball after Nottingham’s full-back fumbled a towering high kick from Phil Cowburn, under pressure from Sonics’ centre Mike Gaston. Skipper Dom Swann slotted over the conversion to level the scores.

There was still more drama to come, as the Outlaws were awarded a penalty, 35 metres from Bristol’s line, with seconds remaining. They elected to kick for goal, but the ball drifted wide in the swirling wind.

Earlier, Bristol had enjoyed the better of a tense opening period and deservedly took the lead after 15 minutes. James Gross collected an inside pass from Swann, who was playing at hooker for the first time in his 11-year Bristol career, rounded the Outlaws’ full back and sprinted 35 minutes to score. Swann converted.

Having played a good, control game, Bristol began to make errors and give away penalties under pressure from the home side. Nottingham eventually made the most of their increased possession, going over in the left corner on 35 minutes. Bristol’s defenders claimed the ball had been grounded inches short of the line, but the referee backed his own judgement and awarded the try. It was brilliantly converted from out wide, tying the scores at six apiece.

The Sonics soon went close to regaining their lead following a barnstorming 50-metre run from substitute forward Curtis Asante, but the young prop lost the ball 10 metres from the Outlaws’ line.

On the stroke of half time, the Sonics finally nudged themselves ahead. After dominant running from Jake Robertson, the ball was moved wide to James Gahan, who slipped a perfect pass to winger Mike Norman. He hared down the left wing and brilliantly stretched out to touch down the ball with millimetres to spare. Swann couldn’t convert, but Bristol were happy to be ahead 10-6 at the break.

Nottimgham began the second half in scintillating form, and the Sonics struggled to respond. Following three consecutive sets of six deep in Bristol territory, the Outlaws crossed for a try out wide. The conversion was missed, putting the teams all square once more.

Bristol were guilty of giving away needless penalties and struggled to keep hold of the ball. Nottingham made the most of the extra possession, adding two scores in 10 minutes to go 12 clear at 22-10.

Bristol looked a shambles, and their disintegration and frustration was best summed up when they were penalised for offside straight from the resulting kick-off.

Things looked bleak, but somehow the Sonics found a way back into the game. Now enjoying a little more possession, Mike Gaston, Jake Robertson and James Gahan began to make more ground. On 67 minutes Gahan produced a superb sidestep and turn of speed to score a wonderful, 60-metre solo try, converted by Swann.

Then, with their next attacking set of six tackles, the Sonics produced the converted try that levelled the scores. Cowburn’s kick got caught in the wind, and the Outlaws’ full back could only spill it behind his own line. Thankfully for Bristol, James Pritchard was on hand to touch down and rescue a point.

Bristol Sonics’ Director of Rugby, Karl Fearnley, was pleased with the way his side came back. He said: “We were pretty poor for most of the second half and didn’t control the ball well enough. I always thought that we could get back into it, though, and the lads showed great charcter to come back to grab a point. A lot of credit must go to Nottingham, who had the best of us for long periods and perhaps deserved the win. I’m happy enough with the result in the end, but we’ll need to improve considerably in coming weeks.”

The point puts Bristol back at the top of the Conference League South table, one clear of Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, who aren’t playing this weekend. The Sonics next face St Albans Centurions in Bristol in two weeks time.

Meanwhile, an inexperienced and under-strength Bristol Sonics A side produced a battling performance to go down 32-6 to Old Patesians in the West of England League. The Sonics’ try was scored by Lee Bartlett and converted by 16 year-old debutant Harry Brooker, brother of first team stars Dan and Marcus, and fellow second-teamer Dean.

Bristol Sonics (v Nottingham Outlaws, 15/6/13): Dan Evans, James Raymond, Mike Gaston, James Gahan (1 try), Mike Norman (1 try), Phil Cowburn, James Gross (1 try), Dan Brooker, Dom Swann (3 goals), Ollie Yeats, Jake Robertson, Tom Verber, Rob Verber. Subs (all used): Curtis Asante, Will Tobin, James Pritchard (1 try), Joe Singleton.

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SWANN WARY OF OUTLAWS AMBUSH

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann has warned his players to expect a tough game when they take on Nottingham Outlaws on Saturday (15th June).

The Sonics travel to Harvey Hadden Stadium, Nottingham (kick-off 3pm), on the back of comprehensive but far from perfect victories over Northampton and Leicester, but Swann believes his side will have to improve considerably to beat the home side.

The Sonics lost heavily the last time they traveled to Nottingham, in last year’s Conference League Three competition, and Swann fears another defeat if his side doesn’t put in a high quality performance.

Swann said: “Nottingham is one of the hardest places to go and get a win, as we found to our cost last year. It’s hard to win away from home wherever you go, especially when you’re traveling long distances, but the Outlaws are also one of the best sides in this League. They’ve enjoyed some big wins lately and will be desperate to avenge their heavy defeat in Bristol earlier in the season. They’ll be up for it – we need to make sure we are.”

The Outlaws sit third in the Conference League South table, four points behind the Sonics and leaders Sheffield-Hallam. Although their form has been up and down this season, they’re in good shape ahead of the clash with Bristol.

The Sonics wil once again be without a host of first-team regulars, but can welcome back fullback Dan Evans and winger Mike Norman, who hasn’t featured much this season due to his Gloucestershire All Golds commitments. There is also a recall for Tom Verber, whose brother Rob has been in fine form for the Sonics this season. Tom hasn’t played since picking up an injury in the first game of the season.

Bristol Sonics Second team are also in action, and will be keen to get back to winning ways against West of England league newcomers Old Patesians at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze (Saturday 15th June, kick-off 2.30pm). Fans are encouraged to come down and support the second team, which features a mix of youngsters, newcomers and former first team favourites. Entrance is free.

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BROOKER BROTHERS INSPIRE BRISTOL

Bristol Sonics showed definite signs of improvement in a comfortable 42-22 win over Leicester Storm that keeps them in the hunt for the Conference League South title.

The Sonics remain level on points with leaders Sheffield Hallam Eagles at the top of the table, four points clear of next Saturday’s opponents, Nottingham Outlaws.

While it wasn’t a perfect performance, there were lots of positives to take out of a game that Bristol never looked like losing, despite the tireless efforts of an out-of-sorts Leicester Storm side who struggled to find their best form but still produced the odd moment of magic.

Much of the damage was done by the Brooker brothers, with centre Marcus grabbing a hat-trick and prop forward Dan making countless yards down the channels. At times Leicester struggled to cope with the hard, direct running of Bristol’s forwards, with man of the match Rob Verber, props Mike Venn and Wes Rodgers, and second-rower Wijnand Wormhoudt all producing eye-catching performances.

The Sonics made their now customary good start. After a Leicester Storm player made a hash of catching the ball following Dom Swann’s long, raking kick-off, Bristol had six tackles with which to bombard the visitors’ try line. After probing on the right hand side, the ball was worked left to centre Marcus Brooker, who trotted over after less than a minute for the first try of the game. Dom Swann produced an excellent conversion, using the strong wind to curl the ball between the uprights.

Leicester hit straight back, making the most of a Bristol error straight from the resultant kick-off. The Sonics’ goal line defence wasn’t called into action much over the course of the afternoon, but when it was it mainly failed. On this first occasion, forward Kane Feek managed to stretch out and put the ball down on the line despite the attention of several Sonics’ tacklers. Impressive storm full back Mark Etherington added the conversion.

Despite this setback, Bristol continued to impress and on 10 minutes regained the lead. Following a series of penalties and unforced errors from the visitors, the Sonics were given another chance to test Leicester’s goal line defence. Again, it was found wanting, as second row James Walter powered over from close range.

Four minutes later Bristol found themselves further ahead when Marcus Brooker again crossed on the left following neat work from skipper Dom Swann and hooker Rory Sharatt. This time, Swann was able to convert to make the score 16-6.

Although Leicester continued to drop the ball and were on the wrong side of the penalty count thanks to far too much interference at the play the ball, Bristol struggled to capitalise. Breaks from Dan Brooker and Mike Venn ended in the ball going to ground following sloppy offloads, while Swann’s passing radar was also a little off. Thankfully, the Sonics defence remained strong, and they largely controlled the ruck without getting on the wrong side of referee Darren Hayes.

Eventually, the Sonics managed to extend their lead. On 29 minutes, a beautiful offload allowed loose forward Rob Verber a run at Leicester’s tiring defenders. He turned on the gas to outsprint Storm fullback Mark Etherington and cross the whitewash following a strong 35-metre run. Swann converted to put Bristol 22-6 up after half an hour.

Another error from the kick off gifted possession back to the visitors, giving them another rare chance to attack the Sonics’ try line. They again took the opportunity, Reece Williams bursting through some weak attempted tackles to touch down. Etherington again converted. Still, at 22-12 up at half time Bristol were sitting pretty.

Leicester were given the rounds of the kitchen at half time by coach Dean Thomas, and began the second half well. They enjoyed more possession and their hard-working forwards began to make more ground. Bristol did their part to encourage them, dropping the ball early in the tackle count to put themselves under pressure.

Eventually, though, the Sonics clicked back into gear and began to make serious ground with ball in hand. On 52 minutes, marauding breaks down field from Dan and Marcus Brooker set up the position for Swann to shift the ball wide right to centre Mike Gaston, who strolled through a huge gap in Leicester’s defensive line to crash over.

On 60 minutes Bristol all but wrapped the game up when winger James Raymond collected an inch-perfect crossfield kick from Swann, stepped back inside and touched down. At 30-10 up with 20 minutes remaining, Bristol were sitting pretty.

Leicester have won plaudits this season for their battling performances and never-say-die attitude, and again they refused to roll over in the face of the home side’s onslaught. They scored next, Jack Boothby surviving a high tackle to bounce over the line. Etherington again converted to reduce the arrears to 14 points.

It wasn’t long before Bristol restored their 20-point advantage, though. Three minutes later Dan Brooker capped another impressive performance with a fine solo try, converted by Swann. Released on the left by brother Marcus, the tall prop forward brushed off a gaggle of would-be tacklers on a 50-metre dash to the line.

On 72 minutes, the Sonics completed their eight-try performance with a final score. On the back of two penalties against the visitors, one for dissent against veteran hooker and former Sonic Simon Anniss, Bristol found themselves deep in Storm territory. It wasn’t long before Marcus Brooker was able to power over to complete his second hat-trick of the season. Swann’s conversion made it 42-16.

Leicester had the last laugh, though, impressive stand-off Tom McIntosh crossing on 76 minutes for a late consolation. It was a less than perfect end to the game for the home side, but it hardly dented what had been a satisfactory afternoon for the Sonics.

Bristol Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley was certainly pleased with what he saw. He said: “We’ve been off-colour in recent weeks, so that was a definite improvement. I’m still looking for an 80-minute performance, and there are areas of concern that need addressing, but we bossed the game for the most part and did the basics right for much of the game. We’ll need to step it up again next week against Nottingham, but with a few absentees returning it bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Next week Bristol travel to Harvey Hadden Stadium, Nottingham, to face in-form Nottingham Outlaws, who face the Sonics on the back of heavy victories over St Albans Centurions and Northampton Demons.

Bristol Sonics (v Leicester Storm, 8th June 2013): Tawanda Chipdaza, Josh Sampson, Marcus Brooker (3 tries), Mike Gaston (1 try), James Raymond (1 try), Dom Swann (5 goals), Johan Schoeman, Dan Brooker (1 try), Rory Sharatt, Wes Rodgers, Sam Blaney, James Walter, Rob Verber (1 try, Man of the Match). Subs: Mike Venn, Wijnand Wormhoudt, Pete Hayes, Jake Robertson

BRISTOL SONICS 42
T: Marcus Brooker 3, James Walter, Rob Verber, Mike Gaston, James Raymond, Dan Brooker
G: Dom Swann 5 (from 8)
LEICESTER STORM 22
T: Kane Feek, Reece Williams, Jack Boothby, Tom McIntosh
G: Mark Etherington 3 (from 4)
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BIG WEEKEND AHEAD FOR BRISTOL RL

Four Bristol Sonics sides will take to the field this weekend, for the first time in 2013.

 

Both of the club’s open age teams are in action, with valuable league points at stake, while Bristol’s next generation of Rugby League players will make their bow with Under 14 and Under 16 games against Caerphilly.

 

On Saturday, the Sonics’ first team aim to keep pace with Southern Conference League leaders Sheffield Hallam Eagles by beating much-improved Leicester Storm at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze (kick-off 2.30pm, entrance £3 including programme, under 16s free).

 

Meanwhile, the Sonics’ seconds face a daunting trip down the M5 to take on old rivals Somerset Vikings in the West of England League. Having lost two games on the bounce, Bristol will be keen to get back to winning ways against a strong home team who also tasted defeat last weekend.

 

Then, on Sunday, the club’s Under 14 and Under 16 teams will play their first games of 2013. Both sides face their counterparts from Caerphilly at Virginia Park, home of Caerphilly RFC.

 

The Sonics first team will be without a host of regulars when they try to come to terms with old rivals Leicester Storm on Saturday. The Sonics needed a last-minute try from veteran scrum half James Gross to secure victory when they last met at New College, Leicester in May.

 

Since then, both sides have been in decent form, with Leicester picking up wins over St Albans and Nottingham, and providing a number of problems for title favourites Sheffield Hallam at Don Valley Stadium last weekend. The Sonics, meanwhile, have lost only once this season and last week laboured to a 36-24 win at Northampton Demons.

 

Leicester are renowned for their strong defense, hard-running forwards and excellent fitness levels. With ex Sheffield Eagles Academy coach Dean Thomas at the helm, the Storm have made great strides in recent weeks. They will provide a stern test of the Sonics’ title credentials.

 

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann is expecting a very difficult game on Saturday. He said: “All our games against Leicester are close, tight affairs. Although we’ve moved ahead of them in recent seasons, this year they’ve closed the gap. They’ll try and slow us down, take their chances and grind out a win. If we’re going to beat them we need to put together a proper ’80-minute performance’, something we’ve struggled with of late.”

 

Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley looks set to be without a string of first choice players, meaning he could look to partner club and Championship 1 side University of Gloucestershire All Golds for reinforcements. He may also call up a few experienced heads from the second team, as he juggles his resources ahead of a big weekend for Rugby League in Bristol.

 

Bristol Sonics take on Leicester Storm at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze, on Saturday 8 June, kick-off 2.30pm.

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SONICS JUNIORS SET FOR 2013 DEBUT

Bristol Sonics’ juniors will play their first matches of the season this Sunday (9 June), as they travel to take on Welsh side Caerphilly at Virginia Park.

 

Both under 14 and under 16 teams will be in action for the first time this year, with the first match kicking off at 11am.

 

Players and parents, who will be required where possible to drive players over to Wales, are asked to meet at Dings Crusaders RFC in Lockleaze, Bristol – the current location for ‘Sonic Youth’ training – at 9am. Alternatively, parents and players can meet the rest of the squad at Virginia Park at 10.15am, in time to get changed and warm-up.

 

Players must be registered with the club and the RFL to play, with forms signed by a parent or guardian. Those who have yet to register will be able to do so on the day.

 

Players are asked to confirm their availability and attendance by emailing juniors@bristolsonics.com, or by contacting coach Dan Brooker directly on brooker20@hotmail.co.uk

 

For those going direct, the address of the ground in Wales is:

 

Caerphilly RFC

Virginia Park

Virginia Close

Caerphilly

CF83 3JA

 

 

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SLOPPY SONICS DOWN DEMONS

Bristol Sonics returned to winning ways with a comfortable 36-24 victory over Northampton Demons, but the performance left skipper Dom Swann far from happy.

The Sonics built up a commanding 32-6 lead after 60 minutes, only to allow the home side a trio of consolation tries in the closing stages as Bristol’s intensity dipped below the levels expected by coach Jason Talbot. As has been the case on numerous occasions this season, the Sonics were guilty of giving away far too many penalties. These, combined with individual errors, combined to allow the Demons a way back into a game they at one point looked destined to lose heavily.

It was a performance that frustrated captain Dom Swann. He said: “Today we played in patches. At times we played some brilliant rugby and did everything right. At others we lacked intensity and cohesion, missed tackles we should have been making and allowed Northampton back into the game. We should give them credit for putting us under pressure, particularly late in the second half, but it disappointing to concede that many points. If you let the opposition have the ball as much as we did in the final 20 minutes, there’s always a chance that you will get punished. That’s exactly what happened.”

Swann continued: “We need to get back to basics and concentrate on putting in an 80-minute performance. Today. we probably played well for 35 minutes. It was good enough today, but we can’t always expect to turn on the style in patches and keep winning. On another day, we’d have been punished for our sloppiness.”

The Sonics dominated the first 20 minutes and built up a commanding 16-0 lead. First James Gahan, playing his first game for the Sonics for nearly 12 months, trotted over on the left after six monutes, following a brilliant long pass from centre Marcus Brooker. Skipper Swann added the extras, the first of four successful conversions of the afternoon. On 13 minutes Bristol doubled there lead when good work from Wes Rodgers and Dom Swann created the space for Rob Verber to stroll over under the posts unopposed from 10 metres out. Then, on 19 minutes, Bristol again breached the home side’s defences, good hands creating the space for Ollie Yeats to dive over in the left corner.

Having been in control, Bristol began to give away penalties and make errors. Northampton broke through on the left on half way on 25 minutes, and only a brilliant tackle from winger James Raymond, who sprinted back 40 metres to catch the runaway Demons’ player, prevented them scoring. A few minutes later Raymond was again in the thick of the action, combining with centre Mike Gaston to bundle a Northampton player into touch inches from the try line. Then, following an off-the-ball altercation, Sonics second-rower Matt Douglas was sent to the sin-bin by referee Darren Hayes for punching. It was only a matter of time before the home side scored. They duly got over the whitewash on 30 minutes, Richard Kirk brushing off some weak attempted tackles to touch down. Ollie Furniss converted. Demons Tim Stevens was sent to the sin-bin five minutes later after throwing a punch at a Bristol defender. It was a scrappy end to an up-and-down half for both sides.

Following some positive words from Talbot and Swann at half time, the Sonics came out and blew the home side away early in the second half. It was the Demons who started the half the brighter, though, and on 44 minutes winger James Raymond again had to rescue the Sonics, this time bundling opposite number Matt Lyle into touch inches from the tryline. Less than a minute later, the Sonics had extended their lead. Second-rower Jamie Crowther broke through on half way, sprinted 40 metres and eventually found full back Dan Evans in support, who finished brilliantly. Three minutes later the Sonics all but made the game safe with another thrilling try, Mike Gaston finishing off a brilliant left-to-right move deep in Demons territory. Then, two minutes later, Rob Verber grabbed his second of the game. The loose forward showed great speed and footwork to shrug off the attentions of four would-be tacklers on a 60-metre dash to the line. Swann converted, putting Bristol 32-6 ahead with 50 minutes gone.

It looked as if the Sonics would run away with it, but soon the wheels began to fall off. Following a brilliant break, Jaems Gahan was correctly penalised for passing the ball from the ground after the referee had called the tackle. From that point on, the Sonics were second best. A string of penalties and handling errors gifted possession to Northampton, who noticeably grew in confidence as the game wore on. On 65 minutes Seb Ward scythed through some weak attempted tackles and crashed over, Furniss converting. Two minutes later Ward again broke clear, this time on half way, and sprinted away to dive over between the sticks.

 

Bristol finally put together a couple of good sets of six and extended their lead on 72 minutes, the excellent James Raymond finishing off another expansive move. Despite the attentions of two Demons defenders, Raymond had enough strength to get the ball down on the try line. Swann couldn’t convert kicking into a stiff breeze.

 

Right at the death, the home side scored a final consolation, Davie Watts rising above James Gahan to claim a towering Ollie Furniss kick and ground the ball over the try line. Furniss added a brilliant touchline conversion to complete the game. It was a frustrating end to a hit-and-miss afternoon for the Sonics.

 

The win means that Bristol remain second in Conference League South on points difference from leaders Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, who defeated the Sonics’ next opponents, Leicester Storm, 44-18. The Sonics face the Storm at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze, on Saturday 8th June, kick-off 2.30pm.

 

 

NORTHAMPTON DEMONS 24

T: Richard Kirk, Seb Ward 2, Davie Watts

G: Ollie Furniss 4 (from 4)

 

BRISTOL SONICS 36

T: James Gahan, Rob Verber 2, Ollie Yeats, Dan Evans, Mike Gaston, James Raymond

G: Dom Swann 4 (from 7)

 

 

BRISTOL SONICS (v NORTHAMPTON DEMONS): Dan Evans, James Raymond, Mike Gaston, Marcus Brooker, James Gahan, Dom Swann, Nick Portch, Dan Brooker, Rory Sharratt, Gary Carpenter, Jake Robertson, Ollie Yeats, Rob Verber. Subs (all used): Jamie Crowther, Winjand Wormhoudt, Matt Douglas, Wes Rodgers.