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SUPER SONICS FALL SHORT

A late fightback from Conference League 3 heavyweights Warrington Wizards denied understrength Bristol Sonics a fifth straight win on Saturday.The Sonics, who traveled to the North West with an injury-ravaged squad and only two substit, came within five minutes of causing a huge upset at Wilderspool, one of British Rugby League’s most iconic stadiums.Bristol led for much of the game and looked like holding out for a remarkable victory, but a trio of tries in the closing stages, the last three minutes from time, allowed the title-chasing home side to sneak a 34-32 victory.The Sonics started brightly and soon raced in to a 10-0 lead thanks to tries from full back Elliot Nightingale and returning second rower Tom Verber, the latter converted by skipper Dom Swann. Warrington hit back to take the lead thanks to three unconverted tries, before Sonics second team captain Joe Singleton finished off a fineNightingale break to put Bristol back in front. Following heavy pressure, the home side scored a converted try on the stroke of half time to lead 18-16 at the break.

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SONICS RECORD FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN

Bristol Sonics moved off the foot of the Conference League 3 table for the first time this season after notching up a memorable 24-42 win over South Wales Hornets at Blackwood RFC.It was Bristol’s fourth straight Conference League 3 victory, following memorable wins against Nottingham Outlaws, Bramley Buffaloes and, most impressively, runaway league leaders Hemel Stags.The victory over struggling South Wales, who now drop to the foot of the Conference League 3 table, came after a dazzling first half display in which Bristol played some of their best attacking rugby of the season. Although the Hornets produced a stirring performance in the second half, it was never going to be enough to overturn the Sonics 36-4 half time advantage.Bristol began brightly, prop Dan Brooker putting second-rower Jake Robertson through a gap straight from the kick-off. Robertson was hauled down 30 metres from the line, but it set the tone for an impressive opening period from the Sonics.Within five minutes Bristol were ahead, Gloucestershire University flier James Gahan finishing off a fine move instigated by Sonics skipper Dom Swann. Bristol’s longest serving player chipped over the Hornets right side defence on half way, collected and released Gahan with an audacious, one handed “round the back” offload. The winger did the rest, finishing in style. Swann added the first of seven successful conversions to put Bristol 6-0 ahead.It was to get better for the Sonics minutes later, as scrum half Johan Schoeman fooled the Hornets’ defence with an audacious dummy and ran 20 metres to touch down to the right of the posts. Swann again converted.By the 15 minute mark, the Sonics had extended their lead to 18 points as Elliot Nightingale went over following a strong carry from outstanding forward Wes Rodgers. Bristol, full of confidence following their shock victory over Hemel, were playing with the kind of go-forward and attacking fluidity previously lacking earlier in the season.Gahan in particular was a strong threat down the right hand side, his speed and broken field running proving too much for a South Wales team low on confidence. The Hornets first serious attack ended with a high crossfield kick aimed towards Gahan’s win. He plucked the ball out of the air brilliantly and set off on a 70 metre run towards the Hornets’ line. Although he was denied by a great last-gasp tackle by Ian Newbury, the ball was moved quickly to winger James Raymond, who dived over between the sticks to extend Bristol’s advantage.With Bristol on top, Sonics Head Coach Karl Fearnley freshened things up by throwing up two new prop forwards, Curtis Asante and Gary Carpenter. Both would have an enormous impact.Asante looked threatening every time he touched the ball and soon had a try of his own to celebrate. Collecting the ball on half way, he barged all-comers out of the way on a dominant sprint to the line. Although the Hornets tackling left a lot to be desired, much credit should be given to the young prop for the speed and strength he showed on his barnstorming run to the line.Bristol’s wonder half was completed when Asante’s fellow interchange prop, Gary Carpenter, collected an excellent offload from centre Andre Samura and trotted away to touch down from 30 metres out. This was to be Carpenter’s last game for the Sonics this season, after taking up the offer of a first contract with Bridgend rugby union. He certainly signed off in style.The Sonics fluffed a golden opportunity to bring up 40 points before half time before Steve Williams gave the home side some hope with a close range try seconds before the interval, but it did little to take the gloss off what had been a remarkable first half performance by Bristol.The second half proved to be a whole lot more difficult for the Sonics, who were unable to match the intensity and excellent completion rate they’d shown in the first. Errors by the visitors were plentiful, and a string of penalties for lazy indiscipline offered the Hornets the kind of possession and good field position they’d been lacking in the first half. Although Bristol largely defended well – hooker Harry Marson, second row Matt Douglas and the tireless Wes Rodgers leading the way – South Wales mounted a comeback which had the Sonics’ long-suffering supporters anxiously glancing at the scoreboard.From their first serious attacking position of the half, South Wales scored, Mike Hurley rising highest to claim a high cross-field kick from Paul Emanuelli. Further tries followed from Williams and Mike Hurley, but Bristol still held all the aces. With 12 minutes remaining Wales Students international Nathan Rainer broke free to score underneath the sticks to steady the Sonics nerves. Although Liam Watton scored for the Hornets a minute from time, it was too little, too late.

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SONICS DOWN BUFFALOES IN THRILLER

Bristol Sonics came back from a 16-point deficit to record back-to-back wins with victory coming through a dramatic final minute length of the pitch try.The Sonics were slow to start after the long journey to Yorkshire and a mistake from the kick-off gifted Bramley field position. Some desperate goal-line defence resulted in a penalty which gave Bramley a repeat set of six and eventually the first score in the second minute. Hooker Ben Pitts scooting over next to the posts, Steve Suddards converting.

But Bristol responded almost immediately. Nath Rainer and Wes Rodgers provided the go forward down the right hand side of the pitch which created an opportunity to spread the ball wide and test Bramley’s edge defence. Scrum-half Johan Schoeman drew in two defenders and a well-timed pass released centre Marcus Brooker for a simple finish, converted by Stand-off Dom Swann, to level the scores.

In a frenetic opening, Buffaloes were in again soon after following a neat pass from scrum half Suddards, leading to Aaron Blake crossing, Suddards making it 12-6 to the hosts.

The home lead was then extended in the 20th minute with winger Carl Linley racing over for an unconverted try. The rest of the first half saw both teams testing each other’s defence with neither making a decisive break through. Brooker was denied a second try having been judged to have been tackled short of the line, albeit illegally, but the Sonics couldn’t make anything of the field position leaving the half-time score at 16-6.The opening forays of the second half were error strewn, with both sides been guilty of not completing their sets. But Bramley sensed victory when Robin Wilkes danced over in the 52nd minute, Suddards goaling to put daylight between the teams. At 22-6 things looked bleak for the Sonics who had found themselves in similar situations throughout their first season in Conference League 3.

However, this Sonics side were not prepared to roll-over. On 56 minutes Bristol found themselves 30 metres out in the middle of the pitch on the 5th tackle. Bramley’s left-side defence were slow to retreat and the Sonics exploited this lapse in concentration. Swann elected to go for the ‘power-play’ and moved the ball wide to Jake Robertson. The young second-row showed great composure to feed Marcus Brooker who raced down the touch-line to beat the covering defenders and cross for his second try.Robertson was again involved five minutes later where his huge hit in midfield forced a turn-over. From the resulting possession man of the match Harry Marson nipped over from dummy-half for a try converted by Dom Swann to close the gap to six points.The momentum was well and truly with the away side now and the individual battles around the pitch started going their way. The Sonics defence was relentless with Marson and second-row Winjard Wormhoudt leading the way, both finishing on 32 tackles each, and fullback James Gahan rock solid at the back to record a fine debut. As Bramley tired they struggled to contain Sonics’ rampaging props Curtis Asanti, Daniel Brooker and Rainer who laid the platform up the centre of the pitch pushed on by the back-row and centres.Eventually this pressure told and with three minutes to go Jake Robertson waltzed through some tired Bramley defence to cap a strong individual performance with a try. Swann levelled the scores at 22-all with the goal.But the game wasn’t over and still could have gone either way in a dramatic finish. Another Bristol error from kick-off gave the Buffaloes one final attacking set. Bristol clung on thanks to 2 Gahan tackles under the shadow of the posts but Bramely were well placed to seal the win. The ball was moved towards the Bramley left wing but an attempted miss-pass was intercepted by Sonics winger Mike Norman who ran the length of the pitch to score under the posts. His ‘swan-dive’ finish launched wild celebrations amongst the Sonics players and supporters with Swann’s conversion leaving the final score at 22-28.

Sonics Head Coach Karl Fearnley was delighted with the determination and attitude shown by his team: ‘We weren’t at full strength today by any means and actually only used 15 players which underlines how much effort those players put in. We’ve worked hard in recent weeks and the boys deserved that result. We’re all looking forward to the remaining games now starting with Hemel next week.’The Sonics return to Clifton RFC on Saturday 4th August against top of the table Hemel Stags.

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ST ALBANS HOLD OFF SONICS FIGHT BACK

Bristol Sonics let another opportunity to grab their first Conference League 3 victory slip through their fingers on Saturday, losing 24-16 to St Albans Centurions in a tight contest at Toulmin Drive.Bristol produced a stirring second half performance to guarantee only their second bonus point of the season, but it was not enough to overcome a St Albans side who proved difficult opponents.The Sonics enjoyed the greater of the possession in that second period, but were only able to convert two chances despite long periods of dominance. St Albans’ goal-line defence was particularly impressive in the closing stages, leaving Bristol coach Karl Fearnley frustrated yet again.Fearnley said: ‘That was another game we could, and possibly should, have won, which has been the story of recent games. For long periods we rarely looked troubled, but let in sloppy tries at crucial times. Again, we were punished for defensive errors or a lack of discipline. I couldn’t find fault with much of the performance, but again it just wasn’t quite good enough.’The home side started the game brightly and took the lead on 10 minutes, scrum half George Steven touching down an inch-perfect grubber kick from Australian player/coach Shane Rampling. Lewis Dempsey converted.Bristol bounced back quickly and were soon back within two points thanks to a long range try from Marcus Brooker. The England Students centre carved through the St Albans line and hit the gas, easing off in the final strides to touch down wide on the left.Bristol then enjoyed a short period of pressure on the St Albans line. Coach Fearnley was screaming for his players to ‘take the two points’ when awarded a penalty right in front of posts, 20 metres out, but captain Dom Swann and scrum half Lewis Beer decided to run the ball. Two tackles later, the ball was dropped and a golden opportunity had gone wasted.On 22 minutes St Albans’ supporters cheered when Bristol dropped the ball on the halfway line. Suddenly, the Centurions were given the chance to attack. Two penalties later, the first for ripping the ball, and St Albans were camped on the Sonics line. Substitute Dylan Rampling brushed off some weak tackling to crash over and make the score 10-6.Bristol were made to pay for more indiscipline on 35 minutes, as a controversial penalty was awarded to St Albans after winger Mike Norman was judged to have not played the ball after the referee called held. In Norman’s defence, although he had been tackled – by a high shot that went unpunished – there was no defender holding on to him when he hit the ground, so he believed he was within his rights to get up and keep going. The referee thought otherwise, and awarded St Albans a penalty, 20 metres out from the Sonics line. They took full advantage, Marin Day crashing over from close range. Full back Gareth Waters converted, putting the home team 16-4 up at the interval.After some harsh words at half time from a frustrated Fearnley, Bristol began the second half brilliantly. They tore into their opponents and began to make inroads into St Albans’ lead. After a period of sustained attacking pressure, Bristol were awarded a penalty for a shocking high tackle on winger Mike Norman. After working their way into the St Albans’ 20, Mike Norman danced past two defenders to touch down. Dom Swann’s conversion reduced the arrears to six points. Game on.After weathering more Bristol pressure, St Albans extended their lead on 60 minutes. After being awarded a penalty that helped that move downfield, Andy Lake touched down to make it 20-10.The Sonics, easily the better team in the second period and genuinely looking dangerous with ball in hand, refused to lie down and quickly reduced the arrears to four points. This time, Marcus Brooker collected an inch-perfect crossfield kick from captain Swann and forced his way over. Swann converted, only to be told by the referee to re-take it as he wasn’t ready. Swann duly slotted over his second attempt to make it 20-16 with 13 minutes remaining.Bristol continued to press and came close to levelling the scores on several occasions. Then, another error handed St Albans the position to seal their hard-fought victory. Winger Aaron Pearson collected the ball on his own line and ran into a wall of tacklers. He released the ball to substitute Sam Barker, but the pass was forward. St Albans were awarded a scrum and guaranteed possession for six tackles. They used this wisely, and on the fourth tackle Mike Benson squeezed over, taking two Bristol defenders with him. With an eight-point advantage and just four minutes remaining, the game was as good as up for the Sonics.Bristol continued to press in the closing stages, but couldn’t get the two scores they needed to snatch a victory. Next week Bristol return to Aretians to face 2011 champions Huddersfield-Underbank Rangers (Saturday 29 June, kick-off 2.30pm).Bristol MOTM: Marcus Brooker (centre)HST ALBANS CENTURIONS

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SUPER SONICS STUN STAGS

Bristol Sonics enjoyed their own “Super Saturday” at Clifton last weekend, coming from behind to stun Conference League 3 leaders Hemel Stags 19-8 at Clifton RFC.The Sonics, who began the day rock bottom of the Conference League 3 table, delivered a near faultless defensive performance to edge out Championship One-bound Hemel and record their third straight victory after 11 losses on the bounce.Bristol’s victory was all the more impressive given that they’d lost two key players, England Students centre Marcus Brooker and hard working second row Matt Douglas, to serious injuries midway through the first half.

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MIXED FORTUNES FOR SONICS

Bristol Sonics supporters were taken on an emotional rollercoaster on Saturday, as the first team fell to another heavy Conference League 3 defeat and the seconds produced a dramatic last-gasp victory that lifts them to the top of the West of England league.The Sonics first team have yet to win in their debut Conference League 3 season, and hopes were raised of a first victory when they narrowly trailed Coventry Bears 18-12 at half time. Yet all hope disintegrated within the first 12 minutes of the second half, as four quick tries from the visitors – including a hat-trick for substitute Rhidian Booth – put the game beyond Bristol.It had all looked so promising. After a slow start, the Sonics were the better of the two teams in the opening period. Running hard and forcing Coventry into uncharacteristic errors thanks to solid defense, the home side came back from 6-0 down following a gift of a try to lead 12-6 after 30 minutes. First, returning winger Mike Norman palmed down a high, cross-field kick from captain Dom Swann and found centre Mike Gatson in support. He strolled to the line unopposed to touch down, before Swann’s conversion leveled the scores.

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SONICS RUE MISSED CHANCES

BRISTOL SONICS were left to rue missed chances after falling to an agonizing one-point defeat at the hands of Anglo-Welsh rivals South Wales at Whitehall RFC.The Sonics bombed a number of clear chances to score tries and were guilty of numerous sloppy errors as they chased their first victory of their inaugural Conference League 3 campaign.Bristol overcame a slow start to take the initiative early in the second half, but two scores from the visitors with 15 minutes remaining put them back in front. Marcus Brooker’s third try of the afternoon on 77 minutes gave Sonics hope of snatching victory, but the visitors held out in the dying seconds.Bristol Sonics head coach Karl Fearnley said: “I’m obviously very disappointed with the result, but I can’t fault the effort the lads put in. That was our best performance of the season to date and if we keep going like this that first win will come sooner, rather than later. Had it not been for some silly errors today and a lack of composure at key times, we could easily have won this game. All credit to South Wales for digging in and grinding out a win. They did the basics better and that’s what won it for them in the end.”Bristol started brightly, breaking the Hornets’ line in their first set of six, but it was the visitors who took the lead. Centre Jamie Lainge intercepted a loose Lewis Beer pass 40 metres out and sprinted away to touch down.

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SONICS SECONDS SMASH SOMERSET

Bristol Sonics’ second team ran in ten tries on their way to an entertaining 48-26 West Country derby win over rivals Somerset Vikings at Aretians on Saturday.The Sonics seconds, boosted by a number of players with first team experience and a raft of new faces, proved too strong for a Somerset side missing their inspirational player/coach Chris Richards and a string of other first choice players.But Bristol had to fight off a sustained second-half fight back from the visitors, before a flurry of late tries sealed the victory.Bristol began well and took the lead on six minutes, loose forward Wayne Cochran brushing off some poor tackles to touch down. Three minutes later the Sonics extended their lead, debutant winger Matt Craythorne juggling the ball before sprinting 50 metres down the left touchline to score. Further tries from hard-working forwards Ryan Hall and Nathan Rainer – coupled with two Will Garnett conversions – gave Bristol a 20-0 lead after just 20 minutes.Somerset had been well out of the game but began to fight back with a string of barnstorming forward runs and neat play from hooker Craig Williams. On 28 minutes they finally got on the score sheet, Joe Bussell charging through to touch down. Dan Hinton added the first of three conversions for the Vikings.Seven minutes later, neat work from Williams released George Giles down the left. He hared 50 metres down the wing before plonking the ball down between the sticks. Hinton’s conversion made it 20-12.The Sonics were beginning to struggle, but some magic from half backs Lewis Beer and Will Garnett opened the space for Luke Savage to break the line 20 metres out and sprint clear to score in the corner. Garnett missed the conversion, putting Bristol 24-12 ahead at the break.Somerset dominated the early stages of the second half and enjoyed two sets of six deep in Bristol territory.