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.





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.



Sonics: John Jackson

Vikings: Joe Bossell



Bristol Sonics will look to put the troubles of the past few months behind them when they start their West of England League campaign on Saturday.


Having withdrawn from the elite Conference League South competition earlier this year due to on and off-field issues, the Sonics have returned to their roots in the regional leagues, keen to rebuild the club from the ground upwards over coming years.


This weekend is a key part of that rebuilding process. Following the open age team’s game on Saturday, training for the Sonics Academy – the club’s hugely popular junior section – begins on Sunday morning (10am, Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze). At noon on Sunday, the Sonics are also hosting an “open meeting” for those interested in Rugby League in the area to come down, hear the club’s plans, and volunteer to get involved.


First, though, the club will be concentrating on matters on the field, with an enticing season-opener against friends and local rivals Somerset Vikings on Saturday afternoon (Dings Crusaders RFC, 2.30pm, free entry).


The two clubs met briefly in last weekend’s South West 9s Competition, with the Sonics coming out victorious on their way to the semi-finals. This weekend, though, looks set to be a much tougher and more demanding contest, with the Vikings likely to travel up to Bristol with a strong side.


Sonics player/coach Dom Swann has also named a strong squad for the game. It contains no less than eight players with experience of the Sonics’ previous Conference League South campaign, including the experienced Verber brothers, full-back Mike Norman, centre Mike Gaston, and second-row Joe Singleton. They’ll be joined by a swathe of new players, including forward Byrone Jerome, who starred in the Sonics’ nines exploits last weekend. The squad also includes two graduates of last year’s Sonics Academy under-16 side, Connor Grant and Joe Moore.

Swann is genuinely excited by the season ahead. He said: “Everyone knows we’ve been struggling, and had to make some hard decisions over the winter about where our future lies, for the time being at least. Since withdrawing from Conference League South, the response from players has been excellent. Numbers at training have been up, and there’s a great team spirit developing. Players are enjoying their rugby again, which is hugely important.

“In some ways, it doesn’t matter how we get on this season in terms of where we finish, or whether we win any silverware. We have some goals, which I’m not willing to discuss, but to begin with we’re going to take it week by week, and try to develop as a team. I’m looking for a big start, but we’re not under-estimating Somerset – we’ve had some brilliant games against them in the past, and they’re always a tough side to play.”


Bristol Sonics face Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, on Saturday 9th May, kick-off 2.30pm. Entrance is free of charge.



Bristol Sonics Academy programme re-starts for the 2015 summer season this Sunday (10th May), with training taking place for under 14s, under 15s and under 16s.


The session takes place at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, beginning at 10am. New players, as well as those who previously played for the Sonics Academy sides in 2014, are welcome to come down and join in.


As the season progresses, training sessions will take place on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, with games being played on Sunday. As they did last season, the Sonics Academy sides will compete in the Welsh Junior League. Fixtures will be published on the Sonics website very soon.


Bristol Sonics Junior Chairman, Ian Waters, said: “We had a great response to our junior programme last season, and all indications are that numbers will be up again this year. Rugby League is a terrific, all-action sport, and we’d encourage any interested youngsters to head down on Sunday and have a go.


“A number of our juniors have gone on to become part of the University of Gloucestershire All Golds and South Gloucestershire & Stroud College “performance pathway”, while others have graduated to the Sonics’ adult first team. If you’re talented and love the sport, there are opportunities to progress. If you’re just keen to have a go and play sport with your mates, we can also accommodate you. We’re here to give people an opportunity to play The Greatest Game.”


Sunday’s session will be followed by an “open meeting”, held by the Sonics to discuss the future of Rugby League in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Parents and junior players are encouraged to attend, along with supporters, Rugby League enthusiasts and anyone who wants to see the sport flourish in the area. The meeting begins at 12-noon in the clubhouse at Dings Crusaders.



Bristol Sonics will hold an open meeting this Sunday to discuss the future of Rugby League in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, and are urging anyone in the area with an interest in the sport to attend.


The meeting will take place at the Sonics home, Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze, at 12 noon on Sunday 10th May, directly after the Sonics’ juniors (under 15 and 16) have completed their first training session of the season.


On the agenda will be the way forward for not only the Sonics as a club, but also priorities for developing the sport of Rugby League in Bristol and South Gloucestershire over coming years.


After years of growth, the Sonics have struggled to maintain momentum in recent years, and are suffering from a lack of volunteers. Having been forced to withdraw from the elite Conference League South competition last month, the club wants to use this opportunity to re-assess the way forward over coming years and are open to fresh ideas. The meeting, which will be hosted by Chairman and co-founder Phil Cole, is an opportunity for Rugby League enthusiasts in the region to have their say and signal their intention to get involved in shaping the way the sport develops in the city over coming years.


Phil Cole said: “I can’t stress how important this meeting is. We’ve achieved a lot with the Sonics, building the club up from scratch over 13 years to a point where we were able to compete at the highest possible level in the amateur game. We also helped secure a Rugby League World Cup game in the city in 2013. We’ve also introduced many youngsters to the sport and a number of our players have gone on to enjoy successful professional or semi-professional careers in Rugby League. However, as a club we are struggling a little right now. If we’re going to move forward and continue to grow Rugby League in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, then people who love the sport in the area need to get involved. If they don’t, the club and the sport will start to struggle more and within a few years we might be back to square one. Nobody wants that.


“This is why we have called this meeting. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to make it to the meeting. The Sonics was formed after a similar open meeting in 2002, where people who had never previously met decided to get off their backsides and do something to develop the sport in the city. This meeting is just as important. Even if you can’t commit loads of time to becoming a volunteer, we’d like your input. If you think you can spare some time to get involved with the club, even better. Either way, please come along on Sunday and make your voice heard, so that we can secure the future of Rugby League in Bristol for generations to come.”


Sunday’s meeting will take place a day after the Sonics begin their West of England League season with a home match against Somerset Vikings (Saturday 9th May, Dings Crusaders RFC, kick-off 2.30pm, free entry). Spectators to Saturday’s game will be encouraged to return on Sunday for the meeting, or at least register their interest and thoughts with members of the Sonics’ committee.


You can find out more information about the meeting, or register your interest in volunteering should you not be able to make it, by emailing Phil Cole at