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SONICS SET FOR SEMI-FINAL SHOWDOWN

Bristol Sonics face arguably the biggest game of their 11-year history this Saturday, when they take on Nottingham Outlaws in the Semi-Final of Conference League South at Clifton RFC (kick-off 2.30pm, free entry).

The Sonics, who finished second in the league, six points ahead of the Outlaws, are looking to book their first “Tier 3” Grand Final appearance in only their second season in amateur rugby league’s elite competitions.

The winners of Saturday’s clash will face either Sheffield-Hallam Eagles or Leicester Storm in the Conference League South Grand Final at Butts Park Arena, Coventry, on Sunday, September 15.

Bristol face a tough task on Saturday, with Nottingham heading to the South West on the back of a fine run of form that includes a 26-22 win over the Sonics when the teams met three weeks ago at Clifton.

The Sonics began the season brightly, beating title favourites Sheffield-Hallam – the Sheffield Eagles-affiliated side’s only loss so far this campaign – but have endured a dip in form over the last two months. Although Bristol have lost just twice in that period – once to the Outlaws and once to the Eagles – they have struggled to regain their early season form.

Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann, playing his tenth season for the club, has urged his side to seize the moment on Saturday. He said: “Our entire season boils down to 80 minutes of cup rugby on Saturday. Before the season began, our aim was to do well in the League in order to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to reach the Grand Final. We’ve done that. Now we have to finish the job.

“Nottingham are a terrific side, and we’ve enjoyed some very close games with them this year. When they first came down here, earlier in the season, we played superbly and beat them by 40 points. At their place, we struggled but came away with a draw. Then they came down here three weeks ago and beat us.

“They’ll be confident of turning us over, so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to make the Grand Final. We have the personnel and the skills to win, and being at home with a partisan crowd cheering us on will help, but we’ll only do that if we play to our potential. In recent weeks our execution has been poor, and we’ve required a lot of individual brilliance to get us out of tricky situations. We can’t expect that to be enough against as good a side as Nottingham. We have to play well as a team from the first minute to the last.”

Swann, who has seen the ups and downs of the Sonics’ 11-year existence at close quarters, has also called on supporters to come out in force to cheer on the side in their last home game of the 2013 season. He said: “We appreciate all the support we get and it would be great to see a large, noisy crowd cheering us on as we aim to make history. We’ve had some big games before, in lower leagues or the Challenge Cup, but this tops them all. To make the Grand Final, in only our second season at this elite level, would be a tremendous achievement. Entry to watch the match is free, and I’d encourage anyone who loves rugby of either code to come and cheer on the Sonics this Saturday.”

Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley is hopeful of naming a strong side to take on the Outlaws, but will be without full back Dan Evans for the crunch clash. Second-rower Anton Wells, who grabbed two tries in the Sonics’ last outing against St Albans, is likely to retain his place, behind a front row containing experienced props Wes Rodgers and Daniel Brooker. Fearnley is also hopeful that Jake Robertson, one of the club’s standout players this season, will also feature.

Bristol Sonics take on Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC on Saturday 31st August, kick-off 2.30pm. Entry to the game is free.

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SONICS SEE-OFF ST ALBANS CHALLENGE

Bristol Sonics ended their regular season with a hard fought victory away to bottom-placed club St Albans Centurions. Travelling without a number of first team regulars, the Sonics made hard work of the first half but found their feet as the game went on to turn around a 22-20 half-time deficit to win 22-30.

 

The visitors struggled to get going in a first half played into a strong wind and against a St Albans side determined to get something out of their final game. The Sonics were guilty of not completing sets within their own half and St Albans made them pay with 2 tries within the first 10 minutes. The away side thought they had pulled one back after a 70m move saw winger James Raymond cross the line but his attempt was ruled out for a double movement.

 

Things got better for the hosts as they stretched their lead to 16-0 with another close range try having taken advantage of the Sonics indiscipline. But this seemed to finally stir the Bristol side into action and they hauled themselves back in to the game. First a Dom Swann cross-field kick was brilliantly palmed back in-field by wing Andre Samura for Marcus Brooker to go over for the first Sonics’ opener. Brooker, playing in the slightly unfamiliar position of half-back, also broke Swann’s five year old record of tries in a season as he crossed for what was his 17th try this year.

 

Brooker then turned provider when his half-break was supported by fullback Dan Evans to grab the Sonics’ second try which was converted by Swann. St Albans extended their lead with another converted try but Bristol struck back with two of their own to almost draw level in a half during which they had been second best. First Marcus Brooker’s neat kick over the line was collected by centre Mike Gaston who stepped past some desperate tackles for a try which was converted by Swann. Then on the stroke of half-time Dan Brooker crashed over out wide after some slick passing between the half-backs. Swann couldn’t convert to leave the half-time score 22-20.

 

After some stern words from coach Karl Fearnley the Sonics looked a better team in the second half. Although far from their free-flowing best, the visitors started making better use of their possession and the defence looked a lot tighter. In a fairly tight half the Sonics line was rarely tested and it wasn’t long before the lead had changed hands. Swann caught his own chip over the defensive line on the 5th tackle and moved the ball out to his half-back partner Brooker who put Anton Wells in for a try on debut. With Swann down winded after the move Brooker took over kicking duties and coolly slotted the conversion.

 

But the Sonics struggled to find the killer move that would secure the game. They thought they had it when Gaston touched down only for it to be ruled off-side. It finally came with 5 minutes left on the clock as some persistent pressure was turned into points when Dan Brooker got his second of the afternoon to leave the final score 22-30.

 

The result was irrelevant in terms of the league as second place had already been secured which brings with it a home play-off against 3rd placed Nottingham Outlaws. The Sonics will be hoping to welcome back a few key players for the game at Clifton RFC on Saturday 31st September.

 

BRISTOL SONICS: 1. Dan Evans 2. Andre Samura 3. James Gross 4. Mike Gaston 5. James Raymond 6. Dom Swann 7. Marcus Brooker 8. Wes Rodgers 9. Harry Marson 10. Dan Brooker 11. Lee Bartlett 12. Anton Wells 13. Joe Singleton 14. Will Tobin 15. Archie Gibbs 16. Matt Jacobs

 

Tries:

Dan Brooker (2)

Marcus Brooker

Dan Evans

Anton Wells

Mike Gaston

 

Goals

Dom Swann (2)

Marcus Brooker

 

MOTM:

Andre Samura

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SONICS JUNIOR SUMMER CAMPS START NEXT WEEK

Bristol Sonics are putting on two free day-long Rugby League summer camps this month, for children aged between 11 and 16 years old (U12 upwards).

The camps, which will offer a mix of team-building exercises, core Rugby League skills, competitive games and top quality coaching from Sonics’ first team stars, take place at Clifton RFC, Henbury, on Tuesday 13th and Tuesday 20th August (9.30am for a 10am start, finish approximately 3pm). The camps will suit both aspiring players and newcomers who want to get a taste of what Rugby League is all about.
The camps are being offered free of charge, and players can just turn up on the morning of each camp and get involved. There will be a number of coaches present, both from the Sonics and partner club University of Gloucestershire All Golds. All coaches hold level 2 qualifications and are fully CRB checked.
For more information on the Sonics’ junior summer camps, players and parents are advised to contact Daniel Brooker by email on brooker20@hotmail.co.uk
Junior Camps
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SUPER SONICS SATURDAY

Bristol Sonics will be in a celebratory mood this Saturday, as they host their final scheduled Conference League South game of the season at Clifton RFC.

The Sonics will return to Station Road in September for a home play-off fixture, almost certainly against Saturday’s opponents, Nottingham Outlaws.

The Sonics secured second place in the League, and a home play-off tie, thanks to a dramatic, late 30-28 win at Leicester Storm next weekend.

For their final home league fixture of the season, the Sonics are laying on a post-match barbecue and are encouraging local sports fans to turn up in their droves and celebrate a successful season for the city’s Rugby League club.

The BBQ doubles as the end-of-season party and presentation for the club’s junior section. Under 14 and under 16 players, and their families, are being encouraged to turn up early and take it what promises to be a bruising, tense first team fixture against Nottingham.

Entry to watch the game is free for all, while Clifton RFC’s bar will be open all afternoon for those who fancy a tipple.

The Sonics will once again be without a number of first team regulars for the game against Nottingham, but Head Coach Karl Fearnley is hopeful of welcoming back a number of players, as his squad gears up for the end-of-season play-offs and a tilt at Grand Final glory.

Fearnley, who missed last Saturday’s game in Leicester due to work commitments, said: “Now we’ve secured second spot in the League, we want to get some form going into the play-offs. I hear that the second team players who stepped up against Leicester played terrifically well, so they’ll get another chance to impress this weekend. We’ve always said that first team places will be awarded on merit, and they’ve earned another chance to impress.

“Although the result isn’t important on Saturday, we’ll be looking to put in another good performance against a top Nottingham side, in order to get some confidence and match fitness ahead of the play-offs. Games against the Outlaws are usually entertaining, and with the barbecue afterwards, it should be a terrific afternoon.”

Before the game, Sonics first team players are planning to take a trip up to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court Estate, to help with the promotion of the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup match in Bristol, which takes place at the Memorial Stadium in October. The Rugby League World Cup trophy will be on display at the Balloon Fiesta from Thursday 8th August until Saturday 10 August, as part of the nation-wide RLWC 2013 Trophy Tour.

Bristol Sonics take on Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC, Henbury, on Saturday 10 August, kick-off 2.30pm.

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JUNIOR PRESENTATION AND BBQ THIS SATURDAY

Bristol Sonics are laying on an end-of-season party, barbecue and presentation ceremony for the club’s junior players this Saturday, August 10.

The event, which is free for all Under 14 and Under 16 players, and their families, will take place following the first team’s final home Conference League South fixture of the season, against Nottingham Outlaws, at Clifton RFC.

Players and parents are encouraged to turn up early to watch the club’s senior stars in action. Their game against Nottingham kicks off at 2.30pm. The Junior party, barbecue and presentation will start around 4.15pm.

Before the end of the summer holidays, the Sonics are also putting on two free Rugby League summer camps for players aged between 11 and 16 years old (under 12s-upwards). These will take place at Clifton RFC on Tuesday 13th August and Tuesday 20th August (9.30am for a 10am start). The camps will finish around 3pm in the afternoon and will comprise a mix of team-building exercises, core Rugby League skills and competitive games. There will be a number of coaches present, including Sonics’ first team players. All are Level-2 qualified and CRB checked.

Players don’t need to book their place. If you want to attend, just turn up at Clifton in time for the start of each camp.

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SONICS STUN STORM IN THRILLER

A converted try from hooker Nick Portch with the last play of the game earned Bristol Sonics another dramatic, last-gasp 30-28 win over Leicester Storm.

 

With referee David Butler poised to blow for full time, Portch produced a moment of magic to dive over for the try that levelled the scores at 28-apiece. Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann kept his nerve to slot over the conversion from a tricky angle to earn Bristol their second last-minute win at New College, Leicester, in the space of four months.

 

Earlier in the season, the Sonics stole the points from the home side when veteran half back James Gross somehow squeezed over in the left corner with seconds remaining. Portch’s try came in similar circumstances, and fittingly was scored in almost exactly the same spot.

 

For Bristol, the victory was extra sweet given the circumstances surrounding the game. Missing a string of first team regulars and forced to travel with 15 (plus player/coach Aran Simm, who didn’t make it on to the pitch in the end), the Sonics were up against it from the start. Yet the players who stepped up from the second team – Nick Portch, Lee Bartlett, Alex Potts, Joe Singleton and Myles Raymond – fully justified their selection, playing an integral part in what will go down as one of the Sonics’ most memorable wins to date.

 

Things didn’t start particularly well for Bristol. After an error-strewn opening Leicester took the lead on seven minutes. The Sonics were culpable of dropping the ball in their own half, and the home side took full advantage. The ball was worked wide to the winger, who strolled in unopposed.

 

On 18 minutes Leicester extended their lead with a simple try, as a Storm player brushed off some weak attempted tackles to dive over beneath the posts. The conversion made it 10-0.

 

The home side were in control at this point. While Bristol made yards down the flanks, they were guilty of making too many errors and didn’t seem to be playing with the sort of fluidity fans have come to expect from the Sonics.

 

Slowly, things began to improve. As the half wore on Bristol began to enjoy more possession and good field position, and eventually made the home side pay. On 29 minutes loose forward Jake Robertson barged through a string of would-be tacklers on a 40-metre dash to the try line. Swann converted from the left touchline to reduce the arrears to four points.

 

Then, three minutes later, the Sonics levelled the scores when top try-scorer Marcus Brooker powered his way over from 10 metres out. Swann couldn’t convert.

 

Bristol looked to be getting on top, but within three minutes the home side had retaken the lead. Following a Sonics’ error 20 metres from their own line, Leicester probed the Bristol line for four tackles before finally breaching the visitors’ defence. The easy conversion put the home side six points ahead.

 

Worse was to come for Bristol in the dying seconds of the first half. Having earned good field position from another Leicester knock-on 30 metres from their own line, the Sonics sensed blood. Instead, the ball was intercepted by a Leicester player, who raced 70 metres before passing to a teammate, who dived over under the posts. The conversion sailed between the uprights, giving the home side a 22-10 lead at the break.

 

Having looked rusty and, at times, jaded in the first period, it seemed that Bristol would struggle in the second half. Crucially, though, they would be playing down New College’s sloping pitch, giving them a potential advantage in the closing stages if the game was close.

 

The Sonics began the half with real purpose, and scored within a minute of the restart. Having spotted a weakness in the home side’s right side defence (Bristol’s left edge attack), Marcus Brooker took full advantage, again forcing his way over to score his second try of the afternoon. It was his 16th of the season, tying Dom Swann’s club record for tries in a campaign. Swann couldn’t convert, but the Sonics were back in the game.

 

Something of an arm wrestle developed, as Bristol probed down the flanks and did their best to put the home side under pressure. For their part, Leicester looked rattled. Their error count increased, and they began to give away needless penalties.

 

Eventually, Bristol’s pressure told. On 58 minutes hooker Nick Portch burrowed his over from close range on the left for a try, converted by Swann, which left the Sonics trailing by just two points.

 

It would get worse before it got better, though. Having clawed their way back into contention, the Sonics’ slipped further behind with 12 minutes remaining. Some loose tackling allowed Leicester’s full back to surge through a gap and touch down under the posts. The conversion extended the home side’s lead to eight points.

 

The Sonics, though, have previous form when it comes to late comebacks, having won several games from losing positions this season. They were playing well and, surprisingly, looked the fresher and fitter of the two sides in the closing stages.

 

With eight minutes remaining, Bristol gave themselves hope with a brilliantly taken try from winger James Raymond, who dived in at the right corner after a wonderful, flowing, left-to-right passing move. Swann couldn’t convert, but the Sonics were now just four points behind.

 

As the clock ticked down, Bristol seemed to waste their big chance to sneak a win. With less than 2 minutes remaining, the Sonics spurned a four man overlap on the left and somehow lost the ball.

 

But the drama wasn’t over. Needing to simply complete a set of six to seal the win, Leicester dropped the ball 20 metres from their own line with a minute to go. One scrum and two tackles later, Nick Portch found himself at acting half back, two metres from Storm’s tryline. Sensing the Brooker brothers hovering at the left edge, looking for the ball, Leicester’s defenders instinctively shifted towards them. Portch feigned to pass in that direction before stepping the other way and diving through the resultant gap to level the scores.

 

With time up, skipper Swann had a chance to give his side victory. Taking a few deep breaths, he calmly slotted the conversion between the sticks and let out a primal roar. Once again, the Sonics had won a game they looked like losing.

 

Afterwards, Swann was predictably ecstatic. He said: “That has to go down as one of our best results of the season. It wasn’t a great performance, but we got better as the match went on and in the second half we were definitely the better side. What makes it so special is the side we had out. Lots of lads were asked to step up from the seconds and they all lifted their game. It will be hard to drop them now – playing like that should earn them a chance to play in our remaining league fixtures and stake a claim for a place in the team for the play-offs.”

 

The Sonics next face third-placed Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC on Saturday 10th August (kick-off 2.30pm).

 

MATCH FACTS

 

Bristol Sonics scorers

Tries: Jake Robertson (29 minutes), Marcus Brooker 2 (33 mins, 41 mins), Nick Portch 2 (58 mins, 80 mins), James Raymond (75 mins)

Conversions:  Dom Swann 3 (from 6)

 

Scoring sequence

4-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 10-10, 16-10, 22-10, 22-14, 22-20, 28-20, 28-24, 28-30

 

Half-time

22-10

 

Referee

David Bulter

 

Man of the Match

Nick Portch (hooker)

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SONICS AIM TO GET BACK IN THE GROOVE

Bristol Sonics return to Conference League South action this Saturday (August 3) for the first time in three weeks, with a tricky trip to Leicester Storm.

 

The Sonics, who sit second in the table going into the latter stages of the season, are aiming to get back into form in time for the play-offs, which begin at the end of the month.

 

They face a tough task on Saturday at New College, Leicester, against a well organized, in-form Storm side that has begun to find some form in recent times.

 

The last time the sides met in Leicester, earlier in the season, the Sonics required a last-gasp try from veteran back James Gross to take home the points. Bristol generally have a poor record in Leicester, and will have to be at the top of their game to breach the home side’s miserly defence.

 

To make matters worse, Bristol are set to be without a string of first team regulars, though they can take some comfort from the return of skipper Dom Swann, experienced forward Wes Rodgers and a clutch of on-loan players from partner club the University of Gloucestershire All Golds. Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley could also include a number of players who impressed for the club’s second team, whose season finished two weeks ago with a comprehensive victory over Swindon St George.

 

Sonics’ captain Dom Swann is relishing his return to action, and has urged his side to re-focus ahead of the end-of-season play-offs.

 

Swann said: “From the very start of the season, our focus has been getting to the Grand Final in Hemel. We started the season well, but as time has passed we’ve looked a little fragile defensively and we’ve not been able to get a settled side. The next three games give us a great opportunity to re-focus and find some form ahead of the play-offs.

 

“It will be very difficult at Leicester. They’re a tough, well-organised side, coached by someone with professional experience, Dean Thomas. They’ve been in great form of late and they’ll be desperate to get another win to try and secure third in the League, or even second if we slip-up.

 

“We want to go into the play-offs in the best possible form. To do that we need to take these next three games seriously, play to our plans and start getting some rhythm back into our play.”

 

Bristol Sonics face Leicester Storm at New College, Leicester, on Saturday 3rd August, kick-off 3pm. Fans can follow match and score updates online at http://twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL