post

11-TRY SONICS SMASH SOMERSET

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.

 

MATCH FACTS

 

BRISTOL SONICS SCORERS

T: Rob Verber 2, Mike Norman 3, Mike Gaston, Tom Verber 2, Max Woodward, Gerry Darley, Shervin Ghassemlou

C: Dom Swann 9 (from 11)

 

TEAMS

 

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.

 

MAN OF THE MATCH AWARDS

Sonics: John Jackson

Vikings: Joe Bossell

post

JUNIOR ACADEMY TRAINING TO BEGIN THIS SUNDAY

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.

post

“OPEN MEETING” TO DISCUSS FUTURE OF RL IN BRISTOL THIS SUNDAY

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 phil.cole@bristolsonics.com.

post

SONICS STEP DOWN FROM CONFERENCE LEAGUE SOUTH

Bristol Sonics have withdrawn from Conference League South with immediate effect.

 

The Lockleaze-based club was a founder member of the elite amateur league in 2013, but struggled throughout 2014 and was forced to postpone its’ first two games this season due to problems with player numbers. Following discussion with players, officials and the Rugby Football League, the Sonics have decided to withdraw from this season’s competition.

 

The Sonics will now focus their efforts on the West of England League, in which the club’s second team was due to compete in this summer. The Sonics will now run a single adult, “open age” side in the division, which kicks off on May 9th. In addition, Bristol’s Rugby League club will continue to further strengthen and develop its’ junior and youth sides, with teams at under 14 and under 16 level. The Sonics remain the only team in the region running a junior Rugby League programme.

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said: “This is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions we’ve had to make, and we thought long and hard before making the call to withdraw from Conference League South. We consulted with players, and unfortunately the level of commitment needed to complete a long, gruelling season in Tier 4 Rugby League was not there.

 

“I would like to emphasise that this is not the end for Rugby League in Bristol by any means. We will refocus the club on offering opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to play Rugby League. That has always been our core focus, and we may have lost sight of this a little in recent times. This is where our approach has always differed from some of our rivals. We have always said that we’re in this for the long haul, and that it will take many years for Rugby League to grow in the West of England. That is more obvious now than ever before.

 

“All community sports clubs go through ups and downs. We are still in a far better position now than we were in our early days, following the club’s inception in 2002. We’ve had knock-backs aplenty over the years, and have always bounced back. As long as there are people interested in Rugby League in Bristol, we’ll do that again.

 

“In due course we will be calling a meeting for those interested in Rugby League in Bristol, to work out our long term strategy. If we are going to grow the sport and the club, we need the commitment of players and volunteers. Those we have are firmly committed, and have been for some time, but we always need more.”

 

The Sonics will continue to train on Monday nights at Dings Crusaders RFC, Landseer Avenue, Lockleaaze, Bristol (7pm start), as they prepare for life in the West of England league.

 

Potential players can register their interest and find out more by emailing wes.rodgers@bristolsonics.com, or by calling Wes on 07730 600 721. Would-be volunteers are encouraged to email Phil Cole on phil.cole@bristolsonics.com

 

post

SONICS DELAY SEASON-OPENER

Bristol Sonics will now begin their Conference League South campaign after Easter,  delaying their first appearance in this year’s competition by three weeks.

The Sonics were forced to request the postponement and rearrangement of fixtures with Nottingham Outlaws and Oxford Cavaliers due to a mix of injuries and unavailability leaving the squad threadbare. The Sonics will now start their season on Saturday April 11th, when 2014 Conference League South champions Valley Cougars visit Landseer Avenue.

The Sonics continue to train on Monday nights at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, in preparation for an extended campaign that runs until September. All potential new recruits and existing squad members are encouraged to make these sessions, or contact Dom Swann or Wes Rodgers as soon as possible to register their interest in being involved this season.

Player/coach Dom Swann, one of a trio of coaches spearheading the Sonics first team squad in 2015, said: “It is with great regret that we announce the postponement and potential rearrangement of our first two fixtures. We did everything in our power to try and get a side on the park for these first two weeks, but a number of injuries and unavailable players meant this  was impossible. We are struggling right now, but things will improve over coming weeks and I’m confident that by April 11th we’ll be in a much stronger position. Going forward, we are working hard to recruit players and expand our squad significantly so that we do not have issues later in the season.”

Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said: “I’d like to put on record my thanks to the Rugby Football League, Nottingham Outlaws and Oxford Cabaliers for their understanding with regards to this matter. We pride ourselves in getting a competitive team out and it was with a heavy heart that myself and other members of the committee made the call to try and switch things around. Helpfully the RFL has built blank weekends for rearrangements into the schedule, so we hope to use these if possible.

The last 12 months have been particularly difficult for the Sonics, after many years of growth. Although there are many positives to be taken, including the amount of our junior academy graduates joining the Rugby League Academy at SGS College, we need to take steps to ensure that this translates itself into a stronger, more vibrant first team squad. We have not been helped by decisions out of our control, with regards to changes in Rugby League in the region. We have previously made clear our feelings about these decisions, and their possible affect on the Sonics, not just now but in the long term. While we cannot blame our problems on these decisions, it is very obvious that they have not helped.

We believe that this is a minor setback. We have a long term plan to grow and strengthen the grassroots of the game in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, something we have been committed to for some time. This includes running more than one side at adult level, and, more importantly, a range of teams at junior and youth level, something that is otherwise severely lacking in the region. We believe this is the way to ensure that Rugby League takes root in the West of England. This kind of long term approach will be of benefit not only to us, but also the professional player performance pathway operated by SGS College and the University of Gloucestershire All Golds semi-professional club. Unlike some other clubs, we believe that success at first team level is all the sweeter if it’s the result of a period of organic growth and junior player development.”

 

post

SONICS SEEK NEW RECRUITS

With the start of the 2015 amateur Rugby League season fast approaching, Bristol Sonics are encouraging potential players to step forward.

 

The Sonics begin their Conference League South campaign next Saturday (21st March), with a home game against Nottingham Outlaws at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground.

 

Buoyed by a new coaching team, spearheaded by the Sonics’ longest-serving player, Dom Swann, the Sonics are keen to expand their player base ahead of a season that lasts until September.

 

While the first team season begins this weekend, the Sonics also boast an ‘A-side’, which starts its’ West of England League campaign in May. By offering two sides, and performance-based movement between the teams, the Sonics can offer Rugby League to players of any standard, regardless of previous experience in the 13-a-side code.

 

Dom Swann said: “Rugby League is a terrific, all-action sport and you’ll find the Sonics present squad, staff and supporters very welcoming. Since we launched the club in 2002, we’ve given opportunities to many hundreds of players of different levels of experience. If you want to play a high standard of rugby, our first team in Conference League South is perfect. If you’d rather have a slightly gentler entry point, our ‘A’ side is more of a social side, geared to bringing through younger players, newcomers and older guys.

 

We’ve had quite a few players come through our pathway and sign for academy set-ups at semi-professional clubs, or become Kingstone Press Championship 1 regulars, such as Marcus Brooker at Oxford. One of our players, Mike Coady, even signed for Super League side Leeds Rhinos a few years back. If you’re talented and motivated, the links and opportunities are there.

 

If you just want to improve your fitness and try your hand at a great sport, we can also accommodate you. If this interests you, get in touch with a member of the coaching team, or come down to training on Monday nights at Dings Crusaders. We start at 7pm and we’ll make you very welcome.”

 

Swann says training has been going well, but with such a long season, the coaching team would like a larger squad at their disposal. He’s naturally keen to point out that places in both the first and second team will be awarded on merit. He says: “One of our key principals this season is picking on performance, and that means training as well as matches. If you’re keen to have a go, come and train and show us what you can do. We’ll pick you if we think you can do a job. We don’t want favouritism, just the best possible team on the park week in, week out. By training and playing together, we can improve on last season’s results and start climbing the League again.”

 

Potential players can register their interest and find out more by emailing wes.rodgers@bristolsonics.com, or by calling Wes on 07730 600 721.

 

Training takes place on Monday nights at Dings Crusaders RFC, Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, Bristol – 6.45pm meet for a 7pm start.

post

SONICS APPOINT NEW COACHING TEAM

Bristol Sonics have stepped up their preparations for the 2015 Conference League South season by appointing a new coaching team.

 

Former skipper Dom Swann, who stood down as captain last autumn, will work alongside former Hull KR Academy player and Sonics veteran Wes Rodgers, and experienced player/coach Lawrence Rycroft.

 

The trio, who has over 40 years of playing and coaching experience between them, has vowed to improve the first team’s fortunes following a difficult 2014 season.

 

They’ll get a first chance to work with the Sonics’ squad on Monday, February 16th, when pre-season training commences at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze (6.45pm meet for a 7pm start).

 

Dom Swann said: “Jason Talbot did a terrific job in difficult circumstances last year, and helped bring through a group of young players. We think he’s laid the foundations for a great 2015 season, though we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us. Conference League South will be stronger this year than ever before, so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to move up the table and compete for honours.”

 

Lawrence Rycroft, who joined the Sonics in 2013 and, like Swann, will combine playing and coaching, said: “We’ve identified areas to work on, and put together a plan that will give us the best chance of competing strongly in 2015. We think there’s the makings of a great side, based on the players who appeared regularly last year. We’re keen to get fresh blood involved, and places will be up for grabs from the first training session onwards. This is a new start, and the beginning of a new era for the Sonics.”

 

Wes Rodgers, who retired as a player at the start of 2014 after many years service to the Sonics, said: “I wasn’t around much last season but understand that it was a difficult one. When Dom and Lawrence asked me to come back and join the coaching team, I jumped at the chance. We know it will be hard work this season, but we showed back in 2012 during our Conference League Three campaign that it’s possible to build momentum as the season progresses. That’s what we’re aiming to do this season – get the players up to speed, used to the systems we want to play, and then look for gradual improvements between March and September.”

 

All three are keen to get new players involved this season, and have urged any prospective players – regardless of whether they have previous Rugby League experience – to head down to pre-season training when it begins on February 16.

 

Dom Swann said: “We’re looking for players for both first and second teams, and we’re keen to take a look at anyone who fancies giving Rugby League a go. It’s a hard, fast and rewarding sport, and we’ve got a great bunch of lads. We’ll be looking at improving the social side of things as well, so it should be a great experience.”

 

Bristol Sonics begin pre-season training on Monday 16th February at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze, Bristol (7pm start).

 


post

SONICS SET FOR NEW CHALLENGES IN 2015

Bristol Sonics’ first team will face their toughest test yet when Conference League South 2015 kicks off on March 21st.

 

The Sonics, who have spent the winter rebuilding following on-field struggles in 2014, will have to get the better of more teams than ever before if they are to succeed in 2015.

 

Conference League South has been expanded from six teams to ten, with Coventry Bears ‘A’, Torfaen Tigers, Llanelli-based The Raiders RLFC and Bristol’s oldest on-field rivals, Gloucestershire Warriors, joining the competition. The latter have been promoted following a partnership agreement with Championship 1 side University of Gloucestershire All Golds, who will provide players and coaching staff,

 

While all of the new clubs will provide a stern test for the West of England’s biggest community club, it’s the chance to renew first team rivalries with Gloucestershire Warriors that’s arguably the most exciting development. Bristol Sonics’ longest serving player, stand-off Dom Swann, is certainly looking forward to facing the Warriors again.

 

Swann said: “It was the games against the Warriors that the first team always used to look forward to most, so it’s good to have them back at our level again. They’ve struggled recently, but with the addition of lots of players from the All Golds and the University they should be very strong. We’ll have to be at our best to beat them, that’s for sure.

 

“From a player’s perspective, having ten teams in the league this season is much better. It’s exciting to go face different clubs, such as the two new Welsh teams. There are four teams with very strong links to professional clubs in the league this season, too, which means the standard will be very high. It’s going to be a tough ask for us to challenge for honours, but we feel like we’re in a better place than we were this time last year.”

 

The Sonics will begin their Conference League South campaign with a home fixture against Nottingham Outlaws at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground on March 21. The following Saturday they travel to Oxford Cavaliers, before returning home to host 2014 Conference League South Champions Valley Cougars on April 11th.

 

The Sonics are set to announce a new coaching team and pre-season training dates next week, following the departure of Head Coach Jason Talbot, who is relocating to Milton Keynes.

 

The club is also about to embark on their biggest recruitment drive to date, in order to attract both new players and volunteers.

 

Swann, who stepped down as first team captain in December following a decade in the role, said: “We’ve got a great group of players, but we’re always looking for new faces to add to both first and second team squads. Rugby League is a terrific sport to play – exciting, fast, tough and all-action. The vast majority of our squad started out as Rugby Union players, and many still play at a good standard in the winter. You don’t need previous experience of Rugby League to give it a go, just a willingness to get stuck in.”

 

Any players interested in finding out more, or trying Rugby League in Bristol, should contact Wes Rodgers on 07730 600 721, or email wes.rodgers@bristolsonics.com

post

SONICS YOUNGSTER GETS WALES CALL-UP

Bristol Sonics youngster Dieter Thomas could make his international debut on Saturday, when Wales’ Under 16s take on their English counterparts at Dyffryn Pennar Park (kick-off 2.00pm).

 

The Sonics Academy player, who impressed the Wales coaching set-up during his appearances in this summer’s Cross Border League, is the first from the club’s junior ranks to receive an international call-up.

 

Thomas takes his place in Lee Cullen’s 20-man squad for the eagerly anticipated contest alongside players linked to Super League clubs Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves, as well as graduates from the South Wales Regional Academy.

 

Bristol Sonics Junior Chairman Ian Waters said: “It’s fantastic to see Dieter get his chance with Wales. He’s performed brilliantly this year and if selected will do his country proud. It’s a great moment for the Sonics Academy and tops off a great season.”

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman and co-founder Phil Cole said: “Our congratulations go to Dieter on his call-up for Wales under 16s. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the last few years getting the Sonics Academy up and running, and it’s great to see it paying dividends. For Dieter to have a chance of taking on established players from England’s Rugby League heartlands shows how much potential there is for players from the West of England to progress. Hopefully this is the first of many similar call-ups for Sonics’ youngsters.”

 

Wales U16 squad to face England (30/8/14): Lewys Willacott (South Wales Regional Academy), Rhys Lloyd (South Wales Regional Academy), Connor Kawulok (South Wales Regional Academy), Geriant Lawrence (Warrington Wolves), Geriant Lawrence (Warrington Wolves), Jaymes Price (South Wales Regional Academy), Reece Brunt (Warrington Wolves), Nathan Ainsworth (Warrington Wolves), George Shaw (Warrington Wolves), Ryan Davies (South Wales Regional Academy), Connor Parker (South Wales Regional Academy), Aled Cockwell (South Wales Regional Academy), Dylan Reed (South Wales Regional Academy), Sion Jones (South Wales Regional Academy), Macauley Harris (South Wales Regional Academy), Jack Samuels (Penallta Storm), George Mbofana (South Wales Regional Academy), Iestyn Humphreys (Askam Sandrats), Liam Silver (Torfaen Tigers), Dieter Thomas (Bristol Sonics), Jordan Gilbert (South Wales Regional Academy).

post

TWO WINS ON SUPER SONICS SATURDAY

Saturday 5th July 2014 will forever be known as Super Sonics Saturday, as Bristol Sonics’ celebrated the club’s first festival of Rugby League by recording two vital wins.

 

The Sonics first team grabbed their first win of a difficult Conference League South season, ending an eight-match losing streak with an impressive 46-18 win over Oxford Cavaliers.

 

Previously, Sonics’ seconds had put in a gusty backs-against-the-wall performance to squeeze out Swindon St George 20-18 to record back-to-back wins in the West of England League for the first time this season.

 

With a bumper crowd cheering on the home sides, and junior academy training sessions kick-starting a memorable afternoon, it provided a perfect send-off for Sonics stalwart Aran Simm, who leaves for a new life down under later this week. “Simmo” was able to play a big part in the day, pulling on a shirt to put in a shift for the second team, as they held on to a slender two-point lead for the last 25 minutes of a nerve-shredding contest with Swindon.

 

The day’s big news, though, was the first team’s win over Oxford, who have been struggling in recent weeks and turned up one player short. The Cavaliers put in an admirable and gutsy display, and at no point took a backward step despite their struggles. They may have tired badly in the closing stages, but they gave as good as they got for 65 minutes.

 

From the start, it looked like being Bristol’s day. A mistake from Oxford 30 metres from their own line 3 minutes in gave the Sonics a scrum in a promising position. Loose forward Will Tobin scooped the ball up from the base of the scrum, scooted left and had enough juice to outrun the visitors’ defence and cross over for the opening try of the game.

 

Having started well, the Sonics began reverting to type. A string of penalties and mistakes early in the tackle count resulted in long periods of Oxford pressure. The Cavaliers blew a number of good positions, and the Sonics’ inability to keep hold of the ball while exiting their own 20 meant that the Cavaliers, attacking with as much gusto as they could muster, would cross the whitewash at some point.

 

There was therefore a grim inevitability about the way hooker Wes Newton picked through the home side’s goal line defence with depressing ease on 15 minutes, with Any Winfield’s conversion putting the Cavaliers ahead.

 

Three minutes later, with the Sonics once again camped in their own 20, Newton repeated the trick, crossing for a second try that was once again converted by Winfield.

 

Things weren’t going to plan for the Sonics, but on 26 minutes they finally began to click into gear. After squandering a good attacking position, the Sonics got the ball back 40 metres out and set about putting Oxford under pressure. A few tackles later, prop forward Tony Harvey surged through on the left and touched down. Sadly, full-back Michael Harrison couldn’t convert.

 

Six minutes later, the Sonics took the lead, and this time Harrison was the instigator. Spotting Oxford’s full-back standing deep, he put in a beautiful chip kick which was collected on the bounce by centre Mike Gaston. He managed to find Harrison with a delicious offload, and the British Army player sprinted away to touch down. He converted his own try to put Bristol 16-12 ahead.

 

Many in the crowd thought that Oxford would crumble, but to their credit the Cavaliers hit back hard. On the stroke of half time Wes Newton completed a brilliant hat-trick of tries – once again converted by Winfield – to put the visitors 18-16 up at the break.

 

A few stern words from coach Jason Talbot at half time had the desired effect, and the Sonics were a team transformed in the second half. Their line-speed was much better, their defence tighter, and their attack much more pleasing on the eye. As Oxford tired, Bristol took control of the game, slowly stretching their lead before piling on the points in the closing stages.

 

After four minutes of the second period the Sonics regained the lead, second-rower Dan Harvey – brother of prop Tony – somehow found enough strength to barge over from close range, with Harrison converting. Six minutes later Harvey crossed again from an almost identical position, putting the Sonics in a strong position at 26-18 with 50 minutes gone.

 

By now, the Sonics were punching holes in the tiring Oxford defence when they attacked, and easily wrapping up the Caveliers’ attackers when they had the ball. That said, Bristol were still prone to errors, and hooker Mitch Spencer’s reaction to having a try ruled out for a double movement ended with him being sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.

 

It made little difference to the outcome, though, with the Sonics scoring four tries in the final 12 minutes. Harrison was again in the thick of the action, with his ugly offload giving winger Ryan Goodman the chance to force his way over in the right corner.

 

A few minutes later centre Shaun Allen scorched away from halfway for what looked like an inevitable score, but Oxford’s full-back brilliantly hauled him down inches from the line. With the Cavaliers defence still back-peddling, there was space for Bristol skipper Joe Singleton to scoop up the ball from acting half and dive over for a try underneath the posts. Harrison added the easy conversion.

 

With five minutes to go, Harrison broke clear and ran 45 metres to touch down between the posts – converting himself – before winger Jack Farler finished off a sweeping passing move to complete the scoring seconds from full-time.

 

It was a much-needed win given the side’s struggles this season, and naturally Head Coach Jason Talbot was delighted with the victory. He said: “We’ve been improving week on week, and today things finally went right for us. We did some good things in the first half, but our completion rate was poor and our goal-line defence left a lot to be desired. We addressed these concerns at half time and put in a much better second half performance. We shouldn’t get too carried away as we were playing a depleted side, but the way we kept them scoreless in the second half and scored plenty of points shows that we’ve turned the corner. Hopefully we can build on this over coming weeks, starting with next Saturday’s home game against Leicester.”

 

Earlier, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ provided home fans with plenty to cheer by holding off a late rally from Swindon St George to win 20-18 in the West of England League.

 

The Sonics started poorly, and were 12-0 down within as many minutes thanks to tries from Swindon’s Liam Rowe and Sam Argent, both converted by Gwyn Jenkins.

 

Slowly and surely the Sonics clawed their way back into the game, with half-back Rob Bell crossing from close range to register their first points of the afternoon. He converted his own try to put Bristol within six points of the visitors after 17 minutes.

 

Five minutes later the Sonics reduced the arrears further, veteran Johan Schoeman touching down in the corner after being released by winger Jordan Selig. Bell couldn’t convert, but it felt like Bristol had the wind in their sails.

 

Unfortunately, some handling errors and a string of penalties allowed Swindon a chance to hit back. From the position gained by a Bristol knock-on close to their line – admittedly under pressure from three Swindon attackers who looked to be offside – Gwyn Jenkins scooted over for a converted try the visitors a 10-point lead.

 

With seven minutes to go until half time, Rob Bell showed a great turn of speed to sprint away and touch down, with his conversion putting the Sonics 14-18 down at the break.

 

The second half was something of an arm wrestle, with defences dominating and both sides scrapping for the win. It took 15 minutes for the next score to come. In the end, it turned out to be decisive. Player/coach Tristan Moore, returning to the side after a number of weeks out, ran a perfect line to open up Swindon’s defence and touch down wide on the left. With Rob Bell off injured, it was left to hooker Harry Brooker to calmly add the extras and give Bristol a vital two-point lead.

 

As the game progressed and no further scores were added, tempers began to fray. Both sides just about managed to keep their cool. Swindon, though, blew a great opportunity to win it in the dying seconds, dropping the ball with the line begging. As it was, the Sonics held on for a vital win to send “Simmo” off to Australia a happy man.