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SONICS WANT FINAL FLOURISH

Ahead of their clash with runaway leaders Sheffield-Hallam Eagles at Landseer Avenue on Saturday (2.30pm K.O), Bristol Sonics Head Coach Jason Talbot has challenged his players to secure a spot in the end-of-season play-offs.

The Sonics sit bottom of Conference League South with four games remaining following a largely disappointing season, and must realistically win three of their remaining four games to sneak into the play-off places.

But Talbot, who has seen his side pick up two wins in the last three matches, is confident that the Sonics can do it.

The experienced coach said: “It’s been a very difficult season, with injuries and retirements meaning that we’ve had to re-build the side from scratch, but we’ve consistently improved week-on-week since April. We’re not the finished article by any means, but we’re finally beginning to play with confidence, defend better and control the game. We played really well in patches against Oxford and Leicester, winning the latter game at the death. I have a sneaky feeling a really good performance is just around the corner, and it would be good to see it against Sheffield.”

The Sonics feature a daunting task against unbeaten Hallam Eagles, whose only defeat in the competition came in April 2013. Their conquerors? None other than Bristol Sonics.

Talbot said: “Sheffield are a terrific side, packed with talented players from KIngstone Press Championship club Sheffield Eagles. They’ve run away with this league this season, but they’re not unbeatable. The Sonics have beaten them before, and if we take the right attitude into the game and play for each other, defending every set like it’s our last, then we can surprise them.”

Talbot is able to field a strong side this week, with skipper Dom Swann set to feature for the first time since May. Also returning is impressive full-back Michael Harrison – man of the match in the win over Oxford – and livewire scrum half Fraser Robinson.

The Sonics are also set to field two sets of brothers for the first time, with Daniel and Harry Brooker and props Tony and Dan Harvey all in the starting line-up. Elsewhere, 16 year-old Jack Uren, who has impressed playing for the Sonics’ second team this season, is rewarded with a place on the wing.

Captain Dom Swann, who has been forced to watch much of the season on the sidelines, is relishing his return. He said: “It’s great to be back! I’ve watched the lads improve as a side in my absence, so I’m really looking forward to playing with them all again and hopefully putting in a great performance. I think there’s three of four of us in the side who played in that win over Hallam last season, so we’ll be telling the lads that it can be done, and how. They’re a big, strong side with great strike players. They move the ball really well and we’ll need to defend aggressively, with good movement, if we’re going to get anywhere near them. We’re due a big performance, though, and tomorrow would be the ideal time to deliver.”

There should be a carnival atmosphere at Landseer Avenue tomorrow, despite predicted rain, with landlords Dings RFC hosting a club training day for adults and juniors. The Sonics are offering free entry to Saturday’s match, and Swann is keen to see a big, hostile crowd backing his side.

He said: “Attendances have been going up over the course of the year, and it would be great to have a big crowd behind us on Saturday. The standard of Rugby League will be high and it should be an entertaining game. The bar will be open, too, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

Bristol Sonics take on Sheffield-Hallam Eagles at Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, on Saturday 2nd August, kick-off 2.30pm.

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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.

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SONICS GUNNED DOWN BY OUTLAWS

There were times on Saturday when it looked, albeit fleetingly, like Bristol Sonics’ winless run in Conference League South may be coming to an end. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, with the Sonics again succumbing to a heavy defeat – this time at the hands of 2013 Grand Finalists Nottingham Outlaws.

As with previous matches this season, the Sonics showed glimpses of greatness but were guilty of not controlling the ball, giving away too many penalties, and allowing tries from avoidable defensive lapses.

It was a familiar story for Bristol’s small travelling band of supporters, who had headed to the University of Nottingham Sports Ground more in hope than expectation.

For all the disappointment, Head Coach Jason Talbot could see positives in his side’s performance. He said: “For the first time in a while, I thought we really looked like a team. The lads who pulled on the jersey gave it everything. We made mistakes, of course, but the effort was outstanding. We’re a team in transition, with a number of inexperienced players who are still finding their feet at this level, and in Rugby League. Our progress is slow, but we’re getting there. I expect that first win of the season to come sooner rather than later.”

Nobody epitomized this desire and effort more than second-rower Joe Singleton, stepping into skipper Dom Swann’s shoes. The former second team captain and Sonics stalwart led from the front, putting in a tireless shift in attack and defense. His desire to get the Sonics out of their losing rut was plain to see.

Reflecting on the match, Singleton said: “It was an honour to captain the side today. We’re going through a tough run at present, and it’s demoralizing for all of us. On Saturday the lads really had a go, and when things clicked – as they seem to do in spells in matches – we were the better team. We need to make sure we can do this over 80 minutes, and that’s our big challenge over the coming weeks. Do that, and our first win of the year will come.”

The Sonics started well, but fell behind early on to a try wide on the left. They were soon back into the game, though, with an error by Nottingham 20 metres from their own line offering loose forward Will Tobin the chance to break from the base of the scrum and feed winger Freddie Blanks, who scuttled over in the left corner.

Bristol battled manfully for the remainder of the half, showing good glimpses and largely defending well, while opening themselves up to sucker punches. Having spotted a weakness in the Sonics’ right side defence, the Outlaws repeatedly attacked on that side, scoring three more tries – one converted – down that side before the interval. Still, all was not lost at 18-4 at half time.

The second half again started positively, with Bristol squandering a couple of good opportunities to score before Nottingham hit them with a long range try. Soon, the floodgates opened, and it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes when the Sonics regained some control and began to show their skills. By that time, the home side had added three more tries – two of which were scored by hooker Scott Morton – and were effectively home and hosed.

Still, Talbot would have been impressed by the way his side finished the game. An altercation between centre Mike Gaston and his opposite number from Nottingham seemed to fire up the Sonics, who hit back hard in the final quarter of the game.

There was a moment of glory for young winger Jack Farler, who sprinted all of 60 metres down the touchline to score after receiving a near perfect pass from Fraser Robinson. Nottingham scored a runaway try shortly afterwards, before Bristol ended the game on a high with arguably the try of the game.

From a “free play” following a Nottingham error, Lawrence Roycroft broke free on the halfway line and found Joe Singleton in support. He charged down the middle of the pitch, only to be hauled down by a covering defender. As he fell, he slipped out a wonder offload to the supporting Fraser Robinson, who sprinted away to touch down under the posts. Fullback Mike Harrisson capped an impressive first team debut by adding the extras.

It was hardly a great day for the Sonics, but the way they finished it gives everyone a little more hope for the games to come. Bristol now return home, and host Oxford Cavaliers at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground on Saturday (5th July). The match is part of “Sonics Super Saturday”, a free festival of Rugby League featuring all four of the club’s teams. Entrance is free, with the first match kicking off at 11.30am.

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SONICS LOOK FOR RAPID IMPROVEMENT

Bristol Sonics’ players are so determined to turn around the club’s fortunes, starting with this Saturday’s game at home to Valley Cougars, that they’ve started turning up to training 20 minutes early.

 

Following the club’s fourth straight Conference League South defeat last weekend, the players decided to turn up to training sessions early in order to put in extra work.

 

Bristol Sonics captain Dom Swann said: “After last Saturday’s defeat to Leicester the players got together and decided that we need to go that extra yard to turn around our fortunes sooner, rather than later. So we’ve started turning up at training 20 minutes early so that we can work on aspects of our game that we’ve been struggling with in matches. We all hate losing, and we hate making the same mistakes over and over again. This extra work is focused on cutting out those mistakes, both in defence and attack.”

 

The Sonics have lost each of their four 2014 Conference League South matches by wide margins, conceding over 40 points on each occasion. They are currently the only side without a win to their name and are rooted to the foot of the Conference League South table.

 

Bristol will be hoping this extra training will make a difference when they take on cross-Severn rivals Valley Cougars from Wales at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground this Saturday (7 June, Kick-off 2.30pm, free entry).

 

The Cougars have enjoyed a mixed start to the season, suffering a string of heavy losses but notching up an impressive win over Leicester Storm, who beat the Sonics 46-16 last weekend despite being down to 12 men for much of the game. Last weekend the Cougars travelled light to Champions Sheffield-Hallam Eagles and were beaten 120-6.

 

Sonics Head Coach Jason Talbot is expecting a much sterner test this weekend. He said: “Sometimes players let you down, and the fact that the Cougars went to Sheffield with 10 players has no bearing on this weekend’s match. They’ll be at full strength when they play us, as it’s a short trip and the Welsh-English rivalry is so intense. I’m expecting them to be a big, strong side that will pose a big test. If we’re going to win, we’ll have to dramatically improve, but we’ve been going well in training so hopefully we can translate that form into a win.”

 

Talbot has been particularly pleased with the commitment shown by his players of late. He said: “Numbers have been up at training recently and everyone is determined to turn our form around. I’ve been particularly pleased with the way the players took it on themselves to turn up early. That shows me that they’re hungry for success, and that there’s a steeliness there that was maybe lacking earlier in the season. You can tell a lot about players when they’re faced with adversity – the reaction we’ve shown to getting such a bad start to the season is encouraging.”

 

Bristol Sonics take on Valley Cougars at Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, on Saturday June 7th, kick-off 2.30pm.

 

Meanwhile, Bristol Sonics ‘A’, the club’s second string, return to action on Saturday when they travel to face local rivals Swindon St George. They’ll be hoping to notch up a morale-boosting victory.

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TALBOT: SONICS “HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION”

Bristol Sonics’ Head Coach Jason Talbot believes his side is “heading in the right direction”, despite a disappointing start to the season.

 

The Sonics are rooted to the bottom of Conference League South following a trio of heavy defeats, but Talbot remains convinced that his side will be in the play-off picture at the end of the season.

 

Talbot, who took over coaching duties at the Sonics in January, said: “We’ve had a tough start to the season, but we’re heading in the right direction. In each game we’ve had decent spells, we just need to play better for longer periods. With so many personnel changes over the close season, this team is still a work in progress. We’ve barely trained together as a squad due to a number of factors, but over the last couple of weeks numbers have improved and the commitment is impressive. It will still take time to get where we want to be, but the signs are good.”

 

This Saturday, (May 31st) the Sonics travel to the East Midlands to face old foes Leicester Storm. The Storm has enjoyed a mixed start to the season, but should prove a stern test for the struggling Sonics.

 

Last season, the Sonics twice came from behind to claim dramatic, last-gasp victories in Leicester, and captain Dom Swann would love a repeat performance. He said: “In both of those matches last year we struggled for long periods, but we had enough desire and belief to hang in the game and take our chances when they came. We may need a similar sort of backs-against-the-wall performance on Saturday to defeat what I hear is a big, strong Leicester side. We could do with getting a win sooner rather than later, and Saturday would be a great time to notch up our first points of the season”.

 

Bristol Sonics A, the club’s second team, will also be looking to notch up their first win of the season when they host Oxford Cavaliers A at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground (K.O 2.30pm, free entry).

 

The Sonics’ second string, which features a number of young players from the club’s Academy set-up, produced a stirring second half comeback in their first game of the campaign a fortnight ago. Although they lost 70-50 at local rivals Gloucestershire Warriors, there were many promising signs for coach Tristan Moore.

 

He said: “We struggled a bit to begin with at Gloucester, but we were excellent in the second half. We trailed 38-8 at half-time, so to score 42 points in the second half was a tremendous achievement. Many sides would have folded, but the lads dug in and showed what we can do. We’ll be looking to tighten up defensively this weekend and hopefully that will be enough to put us on the road to a first win of the season.”

 

In a big weekend for the Sonics, the club’s Under-16 Academy Side will also play their first match of the season. They travel to Cheltenham to face Old Patesians on Sunday.

 

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SONICS TO MAKE LANDSEER AVENUE HOME

Bristol Sonics have agreed a deal with Dings Crusaders RFC which will see the latter’s Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze become the home of Rugby League in the city for the foreseeable future.

 

All open age and junior training sessions and matches will be held at the ground, starting immediately. Training sessions for the club’s two open age teams will take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights (6.45pm for a 7pm start), beginning today, 22nd April.

 

In addition, the Sonics will work with Dings Crusaders to make Landseer Avenue the focal point of Rugby League in Bristol. This will include hosting regular social events at the ground, increasing branding and working to raise awareness of the sport in the city and the important role the ground plays in the Sonics’ activities.

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said he was delighted that agreement had been reached to make Landseer Avenue the Sonics’ home base. He said: “We’re thrilled that a deal has been agreed that will see the Sonics calling Landseer Avenue home for the foreseeable future. We have nothing but admiration for Steve Lloyd and all at Dings Crusaders for the way in which they’ve made the Sonics welcome on the previous times we’ve used the ground. We’re positive that securing a lengthy deal to make Landseer Avenue our base will help us push Rugby League forward in the city, following the massive boost given to the game following Bristol’s successful hosting of a 2013 Rugby League World Cup fixture last October.”

 

Bristol Sonics’ Club Captain, Dom Swann, said: “The players enjoyed the experience of playing at Landseer Avenue last season. The place feels like home and we’re positive that we can make it a “fortress”. The ground is easily accessible and has great facilities, so hopefully we can use this to build interest and get more fans supporting us on match days. We’re looking forward to kicking off the season this weekend at our new permanent home.”

 

Bristol Sonics’ first team begin their 2014 Conference League South campaign this Saturday at Landseer Avenue, with a difficult game against 2013 champions and 2014 title favourites Sheffield Hallam Eagles (kick-off 2.30pm).

 

Junior Rugby League will return to Landseer Avenue from Sunday May 11th, with regular training sessions and matches at both Under 14 and Under 16 level. More details will be announced in due course.

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COACH KEEN TO WELCOME NEW PLAYERS

Bristol Sonics’ Head Coach Jason Talbot has confirmed that the club is looking for new players for the 2014 Rugby League season, which begins in April.

The Sonics begin pre-season training on Wednesday 26th February, and Talbot is keen to welcome new faces.

Training sessions will take place weekly on Wednesday nights (7-8:30pm) at Dings Crusaders RFC in Lockleaze. Talbot is keen to stress that places in both the first and second team squads are always up for grabs.

I want to make it clear that all of our sides are picked on merit,” the Dewsbury-born coach said. “If you commit to coming down to training and want to play Rugby League, regardless of whether you’ve played the sport before, you’ll be considered for selection and will almost certainly get a game. There’s a difference in standard between the first and second teams, but many of our first team regulars started out in the second team and progressed to the firsts. If you’re good enough and willing to learn, we’d love to have you on board.”

The Sonics run two open-age adult teams. The club’s first team plays in the elite Conference League South competition, while the seconds play in the more social West of Englnad League.

We’re looking for players of all abilities,” Talbot said. “If you take your rugby seriously and want to progress, we can offer a high standard with our first team. We have players who come from good quality amateur and semi-professional rugby union clubs, players brought up on League, students and keen youngsters. Some of our other players hadn’t played much rugby of either code at all until they came to us, but have worked hard and are now first team regulars. If that standard’s too high for you but you want to give it a go, our second team players and coaches will make you very welcome.

Whatever your motivation, we’d love to see you at training.”

Sonics’ captain Dom Swann, who has been with the club since its first season in 2003, echoed Talbot’s sentiments. He said: “Rugby League is a terrific sport to play – it’s all action, with big hits, but the basics are easy to learn. Many of us started playing union, so if you’ve played that code you should be able to pick up League pretty easily. If you haven’t, you can still make the grade. If you’ve ever watched Super League on Sky or the Challenge Cup on the BBC and thought ‘I’d like to give that a go’, I’d encourage you to come down to training and see for yourself.”

Bristol Sonics will be training weekly on Wednesday nights at Dings Crusaders RFC, Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, Bristol, BS7 9YS (see map below) from 26th February. Sessions, which last an hour and a half, begin at 7pm.

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WES WANTS ONE MORE WIN

Bristol Sonics veteran Wes Rodgers wants to end his playing career on a high – with a shock Tetley’s Challenge Cup win over his first ever club, Hull Dockers.

 

The East Hull-born utility forward and former Hull Kingston Rovers Academy player announced his retirement at the end of the 2013 season, but has decided to lace up the boots for one final time against his first junior Rugby League club.

 

Naturally, he wants to end on a high by helping the Sonics to their first ever Tetley’s Challenge Cup win, in their first encounter with a National Conference League Premier outfit.

 

Wes Rodgers said: “As soon as the balls came out of the bag and I saw we’d been draw away at Hull Dockers, I decided I’d make myself available to play one last time. It was just too tempting. I still have loads of friends up in East Hull, and the Dockers are a great club. I know they’ll make us all very welcome – their hospitality is legendary.

 

“Playing there will bring back a lot of memories. I’d love to finish on a high by helping the Sonics to upset the odds. They’re a great side so it will be very tough, but we know that on our day we can cause anyone problems. There’s been a buzz in training for the last few weeks. All the players know what a big deal it is playing in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, against one of the oldest and best-known amateur sides in the country. I can’t wait.”

 

The Sonics will go into Saturday’s game as underdogs, having lost their two previous Tetley’s Challenge Cup ties, to Leeds Met University and Eccles & Salford respectively. Hull Dockers, who play in the top division of the elite National Conference League, will offer Bristol their biggest on-field challenge to date.

 

Bristol Sonics captain Dom Swann said: “We’re expecting a very tough match, possibly in difficult conditions. This is what we all play for, though – to test ourselves against the very best. If we upset the odds and win, it would be the best result in the club’s history. We’re heading up there with a do or die attitude – nothing will be left in the changing rooms. If that’s not good enough, so be it, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”

 

Saturday’s game will be the Sonics first under new Head Coach Jason Talbot. He’s looking forward to taking charge of Bristol for the first time. He said: “We’ve not had much time to prepare, as this is way out of our season, but it’s the same for Hull Dockers. Both sides may be a little bit rusty, and ultimately it will come down to who defends and controls the ball better. They’re a strong, skilful side, with bags of experience. To be honest we couldn’t have got a tougher draw. It’s a great opportunity, though. We’re representing Conference League South, and we have aspirations to play at the same level as teams like Dockers. This is our chance to show just what we can do.”

 

Talbot has named a 17-man squad featuring a blend of youth and experience, with Sonics’ standout forward of 2013 Jake Robertson fit to feature after an off-season blighted by injury. There are also spots for talented youngsters Freddie Blanks, Lee Bartlett and Jack Binks, alongside Sonics veterans Joe Singleton and Tristan Moore. Former Sonics star Marcus Brooker, who recently joined Championship 1 side Oxford RLFC from Gloucestershire All Golds, will be an interested spectator, having decided to join his former teammates on the coach to Hull.

 

Bristol Sonics face Hull Dockers at The Willows Sports & Social Club, Hull, on Saturday 1st February, kick-off 2pm.

 

Bristol Sonics squad (v Hull Dockers, 1//13): Duane West (captain), Freddie Blanks, Mike Gaston, Tom Verber, Jonny Wheeler, Alex Potts, Dom Swann (captain), Wes Rodgers, Matt Williams, Jake Robertson, Jack Binks, Joe Singleton, Rob Verber, Lee Bartlett, Wijnand Womhoudt, Jack Spooner.

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PRE-SEASON TRAINING DETAILS ANNOUNCED

Bristol Sonics will begin pre-season training on Monday 13th January, ahead of their involvement in the first round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup in February.

 

Players old and new are invited to head down to Old Elizabethans RFC, Severn Road, Hallen, BS10 7RZ on Monday and Wednesday nights (6.45pm meet for a 7pm start).

 

With the Challenge Cup beginning on February 1st, the Sonics have just six sessions to get into shape before taking on National Conference League heavyweights Hull Dockers.

 

Sonics captain Dom Swann is encouraging all players, whether regulars from previous seasons or keen newcomers, to head down to training. He said: “It’s vital that as many players as possible get to training on Monday and Wednesday nights over the next few weeks. We want to get the season off to the best possible start in Hull, but to do that we need to train hard and make sure that we’re ready for what will be a bruising encounter.”

 

Following the Challenge Cup game, training will move to the Sonics permanent base for 2014, details of which are due to be announced in the next few weeks.

 

The dates of pre-season training at Old Elizabethans, Hallen, are as follows:

 

Monday 13th January
Wednesday 15th January

Monday 20th January
Wednesday 22nd January
Monday 27th January
Wednesday 29th January

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SONICS TO FACE DOCKERS IN CUP

Bristol Sonics face a daunting trip to East Yorkshire in the first round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, after being drawn against National Conference League giants Hull Dockers.

The Sonics are expected take on the National Conference League Premier outfit at Tower Grange, Hull, on Saturday February 1st, subject to confirmation.

Bristol will be looking to upset the odds and record their first ever Tetley’s Challenge Cup win at the third attempt, following losses to Leeds Metropolitan University (2009) and Eccles (2012-13).

Sonics captain Dom Swann is undaunted by the club’s tough draw. He said: “We could hardly have asked for a tougher draw, but it’s one that we’re really looking forward to. The Dockers are one of the most famous clubs in amateur Rugby League, with history dating right back to 1880. We’ve only been going 11 years, and although we’ve made great strides and have some top players, most of our lads came to Rugby League late. It will be a real test of how far we’ve come.

“If we play to our absolute potential, we know we can cause them some problems at the very least. Last season we faced a National Conference League side in the Challenge Cup and it was a very even contest. Whatever happens, we’re all looking forward to going up there and giving it a good go – that’s what knockout rugby is all about.”

The tie could mark an emotional farewell for one of the Sonics’ longest serving players, Hull-born forward Wes Rodgers. The prop started his playing career as a junior at Hull Dockers, and has hinted that he may put off his planned retirement for one last game against his former club.

The Sonics will be running a coach to the game, and supporters are encouraged to come along and cheer on the side. More details will be posted on the club’s website in due course.

The Sonics’ new training venue is not available until later in the year so the club will be using an interim venue for the Challenge Cup training. New head coach Jase Talbot will be holding 6 sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Old Elizabethans RFC, Severn Road, Hallen, Bristol, BS10 7RZ. These will start next Monday (13th Jan) at 6:45pm for a 7pm start and run up to the game on 1st Feb. Further pre-season details will be announced at a later date.