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SONICS COME UP SHORT AGAINST WIZARDS

Warrington Wizards taught newcomers Bristol Sonics a harsh lesson with a powerful all round display.

Coming off an encouraging performance against Kippax Knights, home hopes were high that the Sonics could surprise a Wizards’ side playing for the first time this season.

Such optimism was tested from the start as a knock on from the kick-off put the Wizards on the attack with only a superb Harry Marson tackle keeping Warrington out.

It was not long until the Wizards made their superiority count when, on four minutes, a Paul Alcock break put lively hooker Hayden James in between the posts, Graham Healey adding the extras.

Five minutes later, the lead was extended when Alcock capitalised on dithering in the Sonics’ defence to ground an Alan Redecliff grubber, Healey again converting.

The Sonics’ woes were then compounded when an accidental clash of heads saw influential Marson leave the field.

On 14 minutes, the Wizards went further ahead when James scored his second, this time put in by the posts from a fine pass from scrum-half Healey who goaled.

If that looked ominous, on 23 minutes some tired defending saw Ryan Jones break clear out wide and cantered round to give Healey another easy shot at goal which maintained the point a minute barrage.

Having put together 25 minutes of near flawless of rugby, it was perhaps inevitable that Warrington would make mistakes and the Sonics finally began to get some field position.

On 27 minutes, some poor Warrington defending allowed loose forward Joe McKenna to burrow under from close range to open the Sonics account, Dom Swann converting.

Five minutes later, things got even better for the hosts as a clever ball from Swann was taken at pace by prop Sammi Charad, Swann again converting to reduce the deficit to 12 points.

Any hopes of a home comeback were quickly doused as on 36 minutes, another fine pass from Healey was taken by the excellent Wizards’ full-back Troy Brophy to burst through, leaving Healey the simplest of conversions.

With the Wizards threatening further scores, the half-time whistle came at the right time for the Sonics with the score 12-30.

The start of the second-half saw a more cagey opening with both sides making errors.

On 49 minutes Warrington effectively put the game beyond doubt when Mike Stout crossed having broken several weak tackles on the Sonics’ right side defence.

Healey converted and two minutes later, Paul Reynolds scored in similar circumstances, albeit further out wide.

The best try of the game came on 58 minutes as the excellent Brophy took a fantastic Healey pass at speed to majestically glide through the wilting Sonics’ defence.

If that score had a touch of class, the Wizards’ next try had a dash of comedy.

Big prop Dan Crampton managed to break tackles deep in his own half and sprinted three-quarters of the field just reaching the line before the despairing defenders could catch him.

While the try caused much amusement among Warrington fans in the grandstand, Crampton needed to be replaced after his exertions, Healey landing his eighth goal.

Despite replacements running low, Bristol defended their line with admirable grim determination.

The cold, windy conditions did not help attacking rugby and it was no surprise that a handling error produced Warrington’s final try in the 76th minute.

Trying to get out of their own 30 metre area, an ambitious Swann chip for the Sonics was fumbled by James Raymond and landed in the grateful arms of Christian Taylor to go over in the left-hand corner for the Wizards’ tenth try.

Sonics coach Karl Fearnley reflected ruefully on the loss.

‘We knew moving up a division we’d be playing much stronger sides and Warrington have taught us a lesson today.

‘I thought the lads showed a lot of guts and we’ll be stronger for this.

‘We’ve got a few players to come back and we can look forward to the rest of the season with confidence.’
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SONICS SIGN OFF WITH A WIN

Bristol Sonics produced an impressive second half performance to overcome battling St Albans Centurions 24-18 and end their first Conference League 3 season on a high.The Sonics were below par by recent standards, and had to produce a “purple patch” midway through the second period to finally put away a gutsy St Albans side who were struggling with injuries,The win was Bristol’s fifth in six outings, a run that has seen them move off the foot of the table and finish three points short of the play-off places.It was a win they really had to battle to achieve. St Albans were the better of the two sides in the first half, and were arguably unlucky to be behind at half time. Although there wasn’t much in it, Bristol found it hard to find any fluency and were guilty of giving away too many cheap penalties. Thankfully, they did enough to stay in the game and brilliantly moved through the gears in the second half.The visitors had far the better of the early exchanges, completing their attacking sets and defending stoutly. Bristol, on the other hand, failed to complete any of their first three sets of six, dropping the ball while trying to attack in their own half. It wasn’t long before St Albans took advantage, full back Alessandro Ricci diving over wide out following a right-to-left passing move. Gareth Waters added the first of three successful conversions to put the Centurions 6-0 ahead.Bristol looked sluggish and lethargic, but were soon back in the game. On 15 minutes they worked their way into the St Albans’ 20 and forced a goal line drop out, skipper Dom Swann just inches away from touching down his own grubber kick. From the resulting set of six, Rob Verber strolled in on the left after good work from Swann and hooker Joe McKenna.St Albans’ livewire hooker Ryan Kambouris went close to scoring on 22 minutes, before a penalty for crossing allowed the Sonics to work their way down field and create the space for Tom Verber to storm through some weak tackles and touch down following a 40 metre break. Swann’s conversion made it 10-6 to the home side.Despite taking the lead, Bristol still weren’t themselves and continued to invite pressure thanks to needless penalties and simple errors. It wasn’t too much of a shock when St Albans regained the lead on 31 minutes. The Sonics defence looked vulnerable to the inside pass all day, and it was a switch play that created the room for prop Dylan Rampling to barge over from 10 yards out.

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SONICS’ SECONDS SAVOUR FIRST LEAGUE WIN

Bristol Sonics’ A, the club’s second open-age team, notched up their first ever Rugby League Conference West Of England division victory on Saturday – a thoroughly satisfying 36-22 win at Oxford Cavaliers.Bristol started well but went behind early on, Oxford charging down field to dive over for the opening try out wide on five minutes. But the Sonics’ seconds, playing with a new-found confidence and belief after pushing runaway leaders Wiltshire Wyverns close the previous Saturday, hit back in style.

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GROSS HAT-TRICK STUNS SWINDON

A hat-trick from stand-off James Gross inspired Bristol Sonics A to a nailbiting 30-26 victory over local rivals Swindon St George on Saturday – a win that lifts the Sonics to second in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference West of England division.The Sonics’ seconds trailed 22-20 with 15 minutes of a scrappy game remaining, but late scores from Gross and winger AJ Currie secured the points and helped avenge a 28-26 defeat at the hands of Swindon earlier in the season.Bristol found it hard to gain any rhythm in attack and were repeatedly punished for lapses in discipline by referee Kenneth Lee. Despite showing flashes of real quality the Sonics found it hard to put away a Swindon side that fought hard to gain only their second win of the season.Swindon started the game brightly, taking advantage of uncharacteristic handling errors from the Sonics. On 10 minutes the home side took the lead, Mike Thompson forcing his way over from close range after a series of soft penalties from referee Lee. Warren Broadley slotted over the conversion to give Swindon a 6-0 lead.Referee Lee was in the thick of the action again on 20 minutes, when Swindon try-scorer Thompson was sin-binned for a punch on hard-running Sonics second-rower Chris Carter. Moments later Lee also sin-binned Bristol prop Wayne Cochran for dissent, after the burly forward had been pulled back for taking the resultant penalty too quickly.Bristol responded better to being a man down, and quickly built up a six-point lead. First James Gross surged through a huge gap in the home side’s defence to touch down between the sticks – Andy Parsons converting – before Matt Douglas found enough space to score unopposed after a neat pass from Parsons. The latter slotted over his second conversion of the afternoon to give Bristol a 12-6 lead.Now on the front foot and looking dangerous, Bristol made several line breaks that could have resulted in tries. A powerful surge from centre Andre Samura ended with a loose pass to winger Currie, while full back Josh Craven and prop Ryan Hall all went close.Swindon made the Sonics pay on 35 minutes, when Richard White took advantage of more cheap penalties from referee Lee to burrow his way over from acting half-back. Broadley converted to leave the sides level at 12-apiece at half time.Early in the second period the Sonics once again took the lead, winger Connor Batt strolling over out wide after a great right-to-left hands move on the fifth tackle. When James Gross sprinted 60 metres to grab his second try of the afternoon 10 minutes later, it looked like Bristol had finally taken control of the game.Referee Lee struggled to keep control of the game when an all-in brawl erupted moments later. Despite punches swinging, no further action was taken by the whistle-blower.Now fired up, the home side hit back hard and two quick tries from centre John Kassani – again following a series of penalties from Lee – and a single conversion from Broadley gave them a slender two-point lead with 15 minutes remaining.Bristol struggled to keep control of the ball and looked to be heading for the first defeat in four matches. But a flash of brilliance from stand-off Gross on 73 minutes restored their lead. The veteran half back somehow managed to create enough space to break through the line. Although he was tackled by Swindon’s full-back, it wasn’t enough to stop him reaching out and placing the ball on the whitewash. Andy Parsons’ brilliant conversion from wide left gave the Sonics a vital four-point lead. Two minutes later the Sonics all but sealed the points with a thrilling try out wide. On the fifth tackle, the ball was quickly moved to winger AJ Currie, who showed great skill to dive over in the right corner, inches from the touchline.

Swindon managed to pull one try back in the 79th minute through Ben Bridson to raise hopes of a miraculous comeback, but Bristol held out for a vital victory. The Sonics now sit second in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference West Of England division table behind runaway leaders Gloucestershire Warriors, with Wiltshire Wyverns in third. Bristol Sonics A host Gloucestershire Warriors next Sunday, knowing a win would all but guarantee them a home tie in the play-offs.Bristol Sonics A coach Aran Simm said: “The boys showed a lot of spirit today to get the win, but it wasn’t a great performance. I take a lot of positives from the fact that we grinded out a result, but we’ll have to play better than that if we’re going to challenge Gloucestershire Warriors for the regional title.”

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SONICS UNABLE TO TAME LIONS

Accrington and Leyland Lions won a feisty but compelling encounter 28-16 over Bristol Sonics to progress to the semi-finals of the Harry Jepson Trophy.A frenetic opening saw plenty of action at both ends but amazingly produced no tries. It wasn’t until 10 minutes that Accrington opened the scoring through Tom Lever who was able to ground the ball as the Sonics failed to deal with a high kick. Mark Quinn converted to extend the lead. With the Lions on top it was a surprise when on 16 minutes the Sonics drew level in a mirror image of the Lions score! A high bomb again not being dealt which gave Marcus Brooker the easiest of scores, Dom Swann adding the extras. Within minutes the Sonics were in front as Brooker broke the line on half way and danced through the cover defence for a cracking score. Swann added the extras to give the Sonics an unlikely 12-6 lead.What followed was almost 20 minutes of incessant Accrington pressure with the Sonics’ defence hanging on manfully. In a portent of what was to follow, numerous penalties were conceded by Bristol with second row Jack Gibson warned over his tackling style.. The pressure had to tell and finally on 38 minutes Dan Horridge went over in the corner as a passing move created an overlap out wide. The conversion was missed and the Sonics entered the break with a slender 2 point advantage.Sonics’ coach Karl Fearnley’s half-time team talk was quickly out of the window as within a minute of the restart the Sonics failed to deal with a sixth-tackle offload and the loose ball was picked up by Andrew Robinson to go over and put Accrington back in front. This seemed to act as a wakeup call to the Sonics and a period of pressure ensued with Accrington’s defence holding firm.Controversy flared on 57 minutes when Sonics winger Mike Norman broke the cover only to be taken off his feet by a high covering tackle from the Accrington full-back. Norman had already been caught high in the second half

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SKIPPER SWANN INSPIRES SONICS GRAND FINAL TRIUMPH

A virtuoso performance from captain Dom Swann helped Bristol Sonics edge out Leicester Storm 28-20 to claim their first ever Cooperative Rugby League Conference Midlands Premier title. Swann was in the thick of the action all afternoon, scoring two tries and setting up four others to lead his charges to their first Grand Final win since 2007. Bristol’s record points scorer – the most capped player in the club’s history – also kicked two crucial conversions to help ensure a relatively comfortable margin of victory.But it was far from the easy win that many had predicted. From start to finish Leicester proved more than worthy opponents, and had it not been for the brilliance of Bristol’s key playmakers and tireless forwards the result could have been very different. Although the Sonics led from start to finish, there were times when Leicester appeared to be getting on top. But every time Leicester posed a question, the Sonics – and Swann in particular – had an answer.Playing in their second RLC Midlands Premier Grand Final following last year’s agonizing golden point loss to Coventry Bears, Bristol started well and enjoyed first use of the ball thanks to a Leicester error straight from the kick-off. Storm captain Max Oxton-Morris allowed the ball to bounce into touch metres from the Storm line, giving Bristol an opportunity to test Leicester’s line defence. The Sonics almost took advantage, but Tom James’ pass was spilled by winger Andrew Bond with the line begging.Bristol were then rocked by an early injury setback, with influential full-back James Gross forced off with a nasty mouth injury. Gross caught a stray elbow in the face and had to make a trip to Southmead Hospital to get stitches. He returned just in time to join his teammates at the post-match presentations. His place in the backline was taken by substitute Dan Evans, who went on to produce one of his best performances in a Sonics shirt. He was a more than adequate replacement for the man who had scored 12 tries in his previous three appearances.Despite the loss of Gross, Bristol continued to impress and soon crossed the whitewash for the first time. With nine minutes on the clock a break by hardworking second-rower Josh Sampson set up the position for scrum half Tom James to skip through the line and touch down under the posts for his first try since early June. Swann converted to give the home side a deserved 6-0 lead.Although Leicester were defending stoutly, they found it hard to breakdown Bristol’s rugged defence despite an expansive game plan that saw centre Greg Hurst and scrum half Callum Corley in the thick of the action. Bristol settled down and played the percentages, completing sets and waiting for their next opportunity to attack the Leicester line. That chance came on 16 minutes. Skipper Swann produced a piece of magic to unpick Storm’s solid defensive line and waltz his way to the line, touching down wide on the right. He missed the tricky conversion, but the Sonics had a handy 10-0 lead.Leicester were soon handed an opportunity to hit back, though. Following a couple of penalties and strong running from Hurst, player/coach Ty Watson and England Lionhearts prop Demetrius Gonsalves, Storm suddenly found themselves deep in Bristol territory. Hooker Simon Anniss took advantage, as he often does in games against the Sonics, squeezing his way over from close range to reduce the arrears. Gregg Harris’s conversion attempt barely left the floor, but suddenly Storm had a foothold in the game.The visitors began to play with renewed confidence and soon started to get a roll on via quick play-the-balls and rugged tackling. Bristol continued to compete well but found it hard to pierce Leicester’s well organized defence.Eventually the pressure told, with Storm centre Greg Hurst crossing over in the left corner after good hands from Anniss and scrum half Callum Corley. Although Harris again missed the conversion, Bristol held only a slender 10-8 lead with 32 minutes gone.The Sonics quickly hit back with Wes Rodgers, Wayne Cochran and hooker Harry Marson making good ywards. A half break from Dom Swann and a lightening-quick play-the-ball set up the position for Jack Gibson to attack the line wide on the left. While referee David Butler adjudged that Gibson had been halted inches short, Swann scooped up the ball and dived over unopposed to record his second try of the afternoon. A brilliant touchline conversion from the veteran skipper meant Bristol went into the break 16-8 ahead.Bristol took little time in extending their lead when play restarted for the second period. With less than a minute gone, a beautiful pass from Swann released Dan Evans on the right. He weaved his way in and out of the Storm defence, surging away from 40 metres out to record the try of the game. It was a moment of brilliance from Evans, who returned the ball admirably all afternoon.Suddenly, Bristol had found their form and looked like the better of the two sides. A period of pressure deep in Leicester territory followed, with Johan Schoeman, Marcus Brooker and Josh Sampson all going close.On 47 minutes Leicester were reduced to 12 men when second-rower Liam Barnes was sent to the sin-bin for pulling down a Bristol forward during a scrum. The Sonics used their man advantage to batter the Leicester line, but dropped balls and poor passes cost them a chance to cross the whitewash. Wes Rodgers

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FOUR-STAR GROSS INSPIRES SONICS

Veteran fullback James Gross grabbed four tries as Bristol Sonics produced another stunning second half performance to down Cooperative RLC Midlands Premier rivals Leicester Storm 50-10 and move within one win of a place in the regional Grand Final.Gross was in scintillating form, combining brilliantly with play-makers Dom Swann, Joel Keen and Harry Marson to rip apart Leicester’s usually solid defence and set up a dizzying second-half try blitz. As they’d done against Northampton the previous week, Bristol cut loose at the start of the second period, notching up five tries in 16 minutes to take the game away from the visitors. It was spellbinding stuff.The first half had gone to form. Bristol started brightly, putting the visitors under pressure through strong forward running and quick, expansive play. The Sonics deservedly took the lead on seven minutes, Gross diving over from dummy half inches out and twisting out of the tackle to touch down.Leicester’s inexperienced stand-off Tom Knott put the resultant kick-off straight into touch, giving the Sonics a penalty on half-way and another chance to attack. Dom Swann drilled the penalty into touch and Bristol restarted deep in Storm territory. After probing the Leicester line for a few tackles, the ball was spun wide to flying winger Mike Norman, who squeezed over in the corner. Skipper Swann converted from the touchline to give Bristol a 10-0 lead with less than 10 minutes gone.It was almost too good a start for the home side. Leicester, playing to a tight, forward-dominated game plan and committing plenty of players to the tackle in defence, began to get back into the game. Bristol were punished for lapses of concentration and discipline, and soon the men from the East Midlands were back in the game.First, a series of quick play-the-balls set-up the opportunity for Storm hooker Simon Anniss to scoot over between the sticks on 18 minutes, Knott converting. Then, on 25 minutes, winger Paul Andrews strolled over wide on the right after a long, looping pass from Tom Knott and the scores were level. Once again, the position for Storm to attack – deep in Sonics territory – came from a combination of handling errors and penalties.Over the following 15 minutes, the tension began to mount. Bristol made a string of line breaks, with Gross, Josh Sampson, Marcus Brooker and prop forward Wes Rodgers all going close. Invariably, good field position was wasted and Leicester lived to fight on. That they did, raising the stakes via some combative defence and the occasional high tackle. Tempers began to fray, but Bristol held their cool and continued to chip away, largely through the hard work of a pack of forwards at the top of their form.On the stroke of half time, the Sonics edged ahead again. It was a try created by hooker Harry Marson, who sold a dummy and cut through the Storm defence with an arcing run towards the try line. While he was pulled down inches short, Gross was again on hand to finish off the try. Swann was unable to convert, but Bristol went into the break 14-10 ahead.Games between Bristol and Leicester have historically been close affairs, and there was little to suggest that this match would be any different. While Bristol had offered more cutting-edge in attack, the visitors had scrambled well in the first period and smartly slowed the Sonics’ progress. More of the same was expected in the second half.Once again, Bristol turned the form book on its head with a dazzling spell of near faultless attacking rugby. Little over a minute after the restart, Gross completed his hat-trick with a typical 40-metre run to the line down the left channel. On the way, he showed great strength to bump off four would-be tacklers.A minute later, the Sonics scored another. With Leicester still reeling after Gross’s effort, skipper Swann took the opportunity to attack the line. It was classic Swann, dropping the shoulder and setting off on a mazy run to the whitewash. It marked the beginning of a mesmerizing second-half performance from the Sonics’ most capped player.Suddenly, Leicester looked shot. Bristol’s forwards were punching holes in their previously solid defence almost at will, while Swann and half-back partner Joel Keen buzzed around the fringes releasing wide runners. It wasn’t long before Gross grabbed his fourth try of the afternoon, this time with a side-stepping run down the left. Once again, outstanding hooker Harry Marson had created the position for the veteran full-back.Now, everything was working for Bristol. Offloads, short passes and probing cross-field balls all stuck, and Leicester had little answer. Andrew Bond set off on