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SONICS AWAIT CHALLENGE CUP FATE

Bristol Sonics will discover their opponents in the first round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup on Wednesday (January 8th), when the draw takes place live on BBC Radio Humberside (6.30pm).

The Sonics are one of 44 teams from around the UK starting out on the road to the August’s prestigious final at Wembley Stadium, one of the traditional highlights of the British sporting calendar.

Bristol is representing Conference League South, following the decision from champions Sheffield-Hallam Eagles not to take part in the competition. It will be the third time the Sonics have featured in the competition, following agonizing first round losses to Leeds Metropolitan University and Eccles in previous seasons.

The Sonics could face a nightmare away trip to Scottish Conference champions Aberdeen, a local derby against Welsh premiers Torfaen Tigers – a team the Sonics once lost to by 80 points a decade ago – or face one of a host of National Conference League sides from the game’s traditional “heartlands” of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Humberside and Cumbria. Alternatively, Bristol could be drawn against one of the forces teams, the British Police or one of the two universities representing Student Rugby League.

Fans can find out the Sonics’ fate by tuning into BBC Radio Humberside online – www.bbc.co.uk/radiohumberside – from 6.30pm on Wednesday 8th January.

The first round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup will be played on the weekend of February 1st and 2nd.

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann, who has played in both of the club’s previous Tetley’s Challenge Cup matches, is looking forward to the draw. He said: “The Tetley’s Challenge Cup is the most historic competition in Rugby League, and there’s always something exciting about setting out on the Road to Wembley. We know that we’re not going to get that far, but it would be brilliant to get our first ever win in the competition and progress to the second or even third round, which would be an amazing achievement given the quality of the sides in the draw.

“We’ve been very lucky in the past in receiving home draws, which always works to our advantage. It’s also allowed us to draw big crowds, as the Tetley’s Challenge Cup is a big deal – the later rounds are shown live on the BBC on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and the final is one of the highlights of the British sporting calendar. It’s a big deal for amateur players like us, just like non-league footballers playing in the F.A Cup.”

In preparation for their participation in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, Bristol Sonics’ open age players will return to training for the first time since September this month. The club is on the look out for new players for both first and second teams, and is encouraging anyone interested to get in touch via the club’s website at www.bristolsonics.com. Details of pre-season training sessions will be announced shortly.

 

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SONICS TO HELP “MAKE SUNDAYS SPECIAL”

Bristol Sonics will be taking to the open, traffic-free streets of Bristol city centre this Sunday (29th September) to offer people of all ages the chance to try touch Rugby League ahead of the arrival of the Rugby League World Cup in the city next month.

 

As part of Bristol City Council’s ongoing “Make Sundays Special” initiative, which offers activities for all the family on the closed-off streets around the Old City area, the Sonics will be holding a free, hour-long introduction to touch Rugby League from 12noon to 1pm in the fenced-off “games area” on Baldwin Street.

Players, coaches and volunteers from the city’s  community Rugby League club will be on hand to school young and old alike in the basics of Rugby League. Children and adults will be given a chance to try their hand at touch Rugby League in a safe environment, right in the heart of Bristol city centre.

 

Sonics players and volunteers will also be helping to spread the word about the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, which begins on Saturday October 26 with a dramatic opening ceremony and double-header of matches featuring England, Australia, Wales and Italy at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. A few days later, the action moves to Bristol, as the Cook Islands take on the USA at The Memorial Stadium on Wednesday October 30. There will be a Rugby League World Cup information stand on Baldwin Street, where people can find out more about the tournament, the game in Bristol and how to buy tickets.

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann, the club’s longest-serving player, said: “It’s really exciting to be able to spread the Rugby League message to the people of Bristol as part of Make Sundays Special. It’s a terrific initiative from the Council and a great opportunity to get more people interested in the sport and the Rugby League World Cup, which we’re all thrilled is coming to Bristol. Rugby League is an exciting, fast-paced sport and touch Rugby League offers a great introduction. It can be played by anyone, regardless of age, fitness or ability, and we’re looking forward to getting new people interested in our sport on Sunday.”

Make Sundays Special is one of Bristol City Council’s flagship programmes. One Sunday a month, roads around the Old City (Baldwin Street, Corn St, St Nicholas Street, Small Street and the surrounding area) are closed to motor vehicles but open to the public. The area is then transformed into a bustling carnival of music, entertainment, free activities, sports taster sessions, markets and street vendors. This Sunday, as well as the Sonics’ touch Rugby League sessions, visitors will get a chance to play ping-pong, bike polo and basketball, relax to a wide range of music, test themselves on a pop-up climbing wall, and shop at a bustling street market.

For more information on Make Sundays special, check out www.bristol.gov.uk/sundays. To buy tickets for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, head to www.rlwc2013.com/tickets. If you’d like to learn more about Rugby League in Bristol, point your browser at www.bristolsonics.com.

 

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SONICS SET FOR SEMI-FINAL SHOWDOWN

Bristol Sonics face arguably the biggest game of their 11-year history this Saturday, when they take on Nottingham Outlaws in the Semi-Final of Conference League South at Clifton RFC (kick-off 2.30pm, free entry).

The Sonics, who finished second in the league, six points ahead of the Outlaws, are looking to book their first “Tier 3” Grand Final appearance in only their second season in amateur rugby league’s elite competitions.

The winners of Saturday’s clash will face either Sheffield-Hallam Eagles or Leicester Storm in the Conference League South Grand Final at Butts Park Arena, Coventry, on Sunday, September 15.

Bristol face a tough task on Saturday, with Nottingham heading to the South West on the back of a fine run of form that includes a 26-22 win over the Sonics when the teams met three weeks ago at Clifton.

The Sonics began the season brightly, beating title favourites Sheffield-Hallam – the Sheffield Eagles-affiliated side’s only loss so far this campaign – but have endured a dip in form over the last two months. Although Bristol have lost just twice in that period – once to the Outlaws and once to the Eagles – they have struggled to regain their early season form.

Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann, playing his tenth season for the club, has urged his side to seize the moment on Saturday. He said: “Our entire season boils down to 80 minutes of cup rugby on Saturday. Before the season began, our aim was to do well in the League in order to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to reach the Grand Final. We’ve done that. Now we have to finish the job.

“Nottingham are a terrific side, and we’ve enjoyed some very close games with them this year. When they first came down here, earlier in the season, we played superbly and beat them by 40 points. At their place, we struggled but came away with a draw. Then they came down here three weeks ago and beat us.

“They’ll be confident of turning us over, so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to make the Grand Final. We have the personnel and the skills to win, and being at home with a partisan crowd cheering us on will help, but we’ll only do that if we play to our potential. In recent weeks our execution has been poor, and we’ve required a lot of individual brilliance to get us out of tricky situations. We can’t expect that to be enough against as good a side as Nottingham. We have to play well as a team from the first minute to the last.”

Swann, who has seen the ups and downs of the Sonics’ 11-year existence at close quarters, has also called on supporters to come out in force to cheer on the side in their last home game of the 2013 season. He said: “We appreciate all the support we get and it would be great to see a large, noisy crowd cheering us on as we aim to make history. We’ve had some big games before, in lower leagues or the Challenge Cup, but this tops them all. To make the Grand Final, in only our second season at this elite level, would be a tremendous achievement. Entry to watch the match is free, and I’d encourage anyone who loves rugby of either code to come and cheer on the Sonics this Saturday.”

Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley is hopeful of naming a strong side to take on the Outlaws, but will be without full back Dan Evans for the crunch clash. Second-rower Anton Wells, who grabbed two tries in the Sonics’ last outing against St Albans, is likely to retain his place, behind a front row containing experienced props Wes Rodgers and Daniel Brooker. Fearnley is also hopeful that Jake Robertson, one of the club’s standout players this season, will also feature.

Bristol Sonics take on Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC on Saturday 31st August, kick-off 2.30pm. Entry to the game is free.

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SUPER SONICS SATURDAY

Bristol Sonics will be in a celebratory mood this Saturday, as they host their final scheduled Conference League South game of the season at Clifton RFC.

The Sonics will return to Station Road in September for a home play-off fixture, almost certainly against Saturday’s opponents, Nottingham Outlaws.

The Sonics secured second place in the League, and a home play-off tie, thanks to a dramatic, late 30-28 win at Leicester Storm next weekend.

For their final home league fixture of the season, the Sonics are laying on a post-match barbecue and are encouraging local sports fans to turn up in their droves and celebrate a successful season for the city’s Rugby League club.

The BBQ doubles as the end-of-season party and presentation for the club’s junior section. Under 14 and under 16 players, and their families, are being encouraged to turn up early and take it what promises to be a bruising, tense first team fixture against Nottingham.

Entry to watch the game is free for all, while Clifton RFC’s bar will be open all afternoon for those who fancy a tipple.

The Sonics will once again be without a number of first team regulars for the game against Nottingham, but Head Coach Karl Fearnley is hopeful of welcoming back a number of players, as his squad gears up for the end-of-season play-offs and a tilt at Grand Final glory.

Fearnley, who missed last Saturday’s game in Leicester due to work commitments, said: “Now we’ve secured second spot in the League, we want to get some form going into the play-offs. I hear that the second team players who stepped up against Leicester played terrifically well, so they’ll get another chance to impress this weekend. We’ve always said that first team places will be awarded on merit, and they’ve earned another chance to impress.

“Although the result isn’t important on Saturday, we’ll be looking to put in another good performance against a top Nottingham side, in order to get some confidence and match fitness ahead of the play-offs. Games against the Outlaws are usually entertaining, and with the barbecue afterwards, it should be a terrific afternoon.”

Before the game, Sonics first team players are planning to take a trip up to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court Estate, to help with the promotion of the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup match in Bristol, which takes place at the Memorial Stadium in October. The Rugby League World Cup trophy will be on display at the Balloon Fiesta from Thursday 8th August until Saturday 10 August, as part of the nation-wide RLWC 2013 Trophy Tour.

Bristol Sonics take on Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC, Henbury, on Saturday 10 August, kick-off 2.30pm.

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SONICS AIM TO GET BACK IN THE GROOVE

Bristol Sonics return to Conference League South action this Saturday (August 3) for the first time in three weeks, with a tricky trip to Leicester Storm.

 

The Sonics, who sit second in the table going into the latter stages of the season, are aiming to get back into form in time for the play-offs, which begin at the end of the month.

 

They face a tough task on Saturday at New College, Leicester, against a well organized, in-form Storm side that has begun to find some form in recent times.

 

The last time the sides met in Leicester, earlier in the season, the Sonics required a last-gasp try from veteran back James Gross to take home the points. Bristol generally have a poor record in Leicester, and will have to be at the top of their game to breach the home side’s miserly defence.

 

To make matters worse, Bristol are set to be without a string of first team regulars, though they can take some comfort from the return of skipper Dom Swann, experienced forward Wes Rodgers and a clutch of on-loan players from partner club the University of Gloucestershire All Golds. Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley could also include a number of players who impressed for the club’s second team, whose season finished two weeks ago with a comprehensive victory over Swindon St George.

 

Sonics’ captain Dom Swann is relishing his return to action, and has urged his side to re-focus ahead of the end-of-season play-offs.

 

Swann said: “From the very start of the season, our focus has been getting to the Grand Final in Hemel. We started the season well, but as time has passed we’ve looked a little fragile defensively and we’ve not been able to get a settled side. The next three games give us a great opportunity to re-focus and find some form ahead of the play-offs.

 

“It will be very difficult at Leicester. They’re a tough, well-organised side, coached by someone with professional experience, Dean Thomas. They’ve been in great form of late and they’ll be desperate to get another win to try and secure third in the League, or even second if we slip-up.

 

“We want to go into the play-offs in the best possible form. To do that we need to take these next three games seriously, play to our plans and start getting some rhythm back into our play.”

 

Bristol Sonics face Leicester Storm at New College, Leicester, on Saturday 3rd August, kick-off 3pm. Fans can follow match and score updates online at http://twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL

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DEMONS DEFAULT BOOSTS SONICS SECONDS

Bristol Sonics’ second team will benefit from an influx of players this Saturday, following the cancellation of the first team’s game with Northampton Demons.

The Sonics’ firsts were due to play the Demons at Clifton RFC, Henbury, but Northampton have forfeited the game due to being unable to raise a side following a spate of injuries last weekend.

Instead, some of the Sonics’ first team stars, including many returning from injury or holidays, will boost the second team’s ranks as they travel to take on Old Patesians in the West of England League.

Sonics stalwarts Dom Swann, Wes Rodgers, Harry Marson, Daniel Brooker and Dan Evans are amongst the first team contingent due to lend a hand to the seconds on Saturday.

The second team have struggled at times this season, as a mix of youngsters and veterans have worked hard in often difficult circumstances against the league’s stronger sides. Old Patesians are on a good run, and have established themselves as title contenders thanks to an impressive run of  wins.

Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley said: “With the cancellation of the first team game, it gives us an opportunity to help out the second team lads and give them the support they’ve often been lacking this season. This is not about playing a first team in a second team standard league, it’s about giving players game time and our younger second team players a chance to learn off some of the more experienced lads.

“Although there will be some first team players involved, they are just there to support the core of the second team. Those lads will make up the backbone of the team, with some first team lads there as back up, on the interchange bench, to give them a rest.”

Following the cancellation of the Northampton game, the first team now don’t have a game until August 3.

Bristol Sonics A take on Old Patesians at Everest Road, Cheltenham, on Saturday 13th July, kick off 2.30pm.

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FEAST OF RL IN BRISTOL THIS WEEKEND

Would-be Rugby League fans are being treated to a feast of Rugby League in Bristol this weekend, as the countdown to the city’s involvement in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup intensifies.

Fans keen to get a taste of League before the city hosts a World Cup game between USA and the Cook Islands in October can take in no less than FOUR matches in Bristol this weekend, with games spread over Saturday and Sunday.

 

Both Bristol Sonics’ adult sides will be in action on Saturday at Clifton RFC, Henbury, with the action starting at 1pm as the club’s second team aims to boost their West of England League play-off hopes with a win over local rivals Somerset Vikings.

 

Then, from 2.30pm, the Sonics take on fellow Conference League South title rivals Sheffield Hallam Eagles in a must-win shoot-out for top spot.

 

The Sonics currently sit top of the Conference League South table, one point ahead of pre-season favourites Sheffield Hallam Eagles, a club set up by Sheffield Hallam Eagles and 2012 Kingstone Press Championship winners Sheffield Eagles, and featuring many players from the latter’s “performance pathway”.

 

When the two sides met on the opening day of the season at Don Valley Stadium, home of the Eagles’ professional side and training base for London 2012 Gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill, it was the Sonics who prevailed in a high scoring thriller. Yet when the two sides last clashed, at Dings in early June, it was Sheffield who won, battering the home side in another entertaining contest.

 

The two could yet meet in the end-of-season Grand Final at Hemel Stags’ Pennine Way ground in September, but neither side are looking that far ahead. With top spot at stake, both teams will be focused on getting a win on Saturday.

 

Sonics coach Aran Simm, who will be coaching both sides on Saturday due to the absence of Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley, said: “We’ve got a chance to do something very special on Saturday, but it will be incredibly difficult. Sheffield are a top side full of talented young players, some of whom are pressing for selection to the Eagles’ Championship side, which shows their quality. If we win it would be a momentous result. We’ve already beaten them once this season, so we know it can be done. Whatever happens, it should be a superb, high quality, highly intense game of Rugby League.”

 

Simm will have to make do without a string of Sonics’ first team regulars, including captain Dom Swann, prop Daniel Brooker and loose forward Rob Verber. He can welcome back hooker Harry Marson, and hopes to have experienced forward Wes Rodgers available after a short injury lay-off.

 

Bristol Sonics’ Chairman Phil Cole is excited by the prospect of Saturday’s double-header at Clifton. He said: “This is the first, and possibly only, time this season both adult teams will be at home on the same afternoon. With both games meaning a lot to the teams’ league position, we’d love to get a big crowd to support the lads. They’ve been doing great things on the pitch for a while now, so it would be great for the Bristol public to get behind them. Even if you’ve never been to watch a Rugby League match before, we can guarantee you’ll be entertained.”

 

Entrance to Clifton on Saturday is £3, including complimentary, full colour matchday programme.

 

The Rugby League action continues on Sunday, as the Sonics’ juniors face their counterparts from Old Patesians, Cheltenham, at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze (10.30am start, free entry). The Sonics under 14 and under 16 teams will both be in action, for only their second outing of the season, following games against Aber Valley in Wales last month.

For more information about the Sonics, fans are advised to check out www.bristolsonics.com and www.twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL
SATURDAY 6th JULY
Clifton RFC, Henbury
13.00 – Bristol Sonics ‘A’ v Somerset Vikings (West of England League)
14.30 – Bristol Sonics v Sheffield Hallam Eagles (Conference League South)
Entrance £3 including programme
SUNDAY 7th JULY
Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze
10.30 – Bristol Sonics U16 v Chletenham Old Patesians U16
followed by Bristol Sonics U14 v Cheltenham Old Patesians U14
Free entrance
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NEW-LOOK SONICS SET FOR CENTS TEST

Conference League South leaders Bristol Sonics return to action this Saturday, when they take on St Albans Centurions in the first of three consecutive home games.

 

The Sonics have traditionally enjoyed a strong record at home, and have lost just once in Bristol this season – a 36-30 reverse to fellow title-chasers Sheffield-Hallam Eagles. With the Eagles boasting a game in hand and due to visit Bristol next weekend, the Sonics will be looking to make the most of tomorrow’s game with strugglers St Albans at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC (kick-off 2.30pm).

 

Bristol will have to do without skipper, goal-kicker and main playmaker Dom Swann, who is currently away on his honeymoon. It will be the first time this season that the Sonics have played without the inspirational Swann, who will also miss next week’s rematch with Sheffield.

 

With other regular playmakers also missing, South African Johan Schoeman returns to scrum half, with second team graduate Alex Potts likely to deputize for Swann at stand-off. Gloucestershire All Golds’ Rory Sharratt, a regular for the Sonics this season, looks set to continue at hooker.

 

Second team player/coach Aran Simm will be coaching the first team in the absence of Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley. Simm expects a tough game against a St Albans side who have won only once this year.

 

Simm said: “Despite their results, St Albans are a decent side and I’d expect them to give us a very tough game. If we’re just a little bit off our game they’ll punish us. When we last met in St Albans we won comfortably, but with players missing and new halfbacks it may take us some time to gel. We’ll only win if we play well, so we need to be on our game right from the first whistle.”

 

To encourage more spectators to come down and show their support for summer Rugby League, the Sonics are offering free entry to the game on Saturday.

 

Bristol Sonics’ Chairman Phil Cole said: “With the Rugby League World Cup coming to Bristol later in the year, there’s no better time to check out some live Rugby League. By making entrance free, we hope that many new fans will take the opportunity to check out the sport for themselves. I started out as a rugby union supporter in my youth, but was converted by the speed, excitement and intensity of Rugby League.  If you’ve not been to a live match, it’s worth checking out Saturday’s game for free.”

 

Meanwhile, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ travel to West of England League form side Gloucestershire Warriors (Old Centralians RFC, Gloucester, K.O 2.30pm) on Saturday, buoyed by an impressive win over Oxford Cavaliers last weekend.

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SWANN WARY OF OUTLAWS AMBUSH

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann has warned his players to expect a tough game when they take on Nottingham Outlaws on Saturday (15th June).

The Sonics travel to Harvey Hadden Stadium, Nottingham (kick-off 3pm), on the back of comprehensive but far from perfect victories over Northampton and Leicester, but Swann believes his side will have to improve considerably to beat the home side.

The Sonics lost heavily the last time they traveled to Nottingham, in last year’s Conference League Three competition, and Swann fears another defeat if his side doesn’t put in a high quality performance.

Swann said: “Nottingham is one of the hardest places to go and get a win, as we found to our cost last year. It’s hard to win away from home wherever you go, especially when you’re traveling long distances, but the Outlaws are also one of the best sides in this League. They’ve enjoyed some big wins lately and will be desperate to avenge their heavy defeat in Bristol earlier in the season. They’ll be up for it – we need to make sure we are.”

The Outlaws sit third in the Conference League South table, four points behind the Sonics and leaders Sheffield-Hallam. Although their form has been up and down this season, they’re in good shape ahead of the clash with Bristol.

The Sonics wil once again be without a host of first-team regulars, but can welcome back fullback Dan Evans and winger Mike Norman, who hasn’t featured much this season due to his Gloucestershire All Golds commitments. There is also a recall for Tom Verber, whose brother Rob has been in fine form for the Sonics this season. Tom hasn’t played since picking up an injury in the first game of the season.

Bristol Sonics Second team are also in action, and will be keen to get back to winning ways against West of England league newcomers Old Patesians at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze (Saturday 15th June, kick-off 2.30pm). Fans are encouraged to come down and support the second team, which features a mix of youngsters, newcomers and former first team favourites. Entrance is free.

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BIG WEEKEND AHEAD FOR BRISTOL RL

Four Bristol Sonics sides will take to the field this weekend, for the first time in 2013.

 

Both of the club’s open age teams are in action, with valuable league points at stake, while Bristol’s next generation of Rugby League players will make their bow with Under 14 and Under 16 games against Caerphilly.

 

On Saturday, the Sonics’ first team aim to keep pace with Southern Conference League leaders Sheffield Hallam Eagles by beating much-improved Leicester Storm at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze (kick-off 2.30pm, entrance £3 including programme, under 16s free).

 

Meanwhile, the Sonics’ seconds face a daunting trip down the M5 to take on old rivals Somerset Vikings in the West of England League. Having lost two games on the bounce, Bristol will be keen to get back to winning ways against a strong home team who also tasted defeat last weekend.

 

Then, on Sunday, the club’s Under 14 and Under 16 teams will play their first games of 2013. Both sides face their counterparts from Caerphilly at Virginia Park, home of Caerphilly RFC.

 

The Sonics first team will be without a host of regulars when they try to come to terms with old rivals Leicester Storm on Saturday. The Sonics needed a last-minute try from veteran scrum half James Gross to secure victory when they last met at New College, Leicester in May.

 

Since then, both sides have been in decent form, with Leicester picking up wins over St Albans and Nottingham, and providing a number of problems for title favourites Sheffield Hallam at Don Valley Stadium last weekend. The Sonics, meanwhile, have lost only once this season and last week laboured to a 36-24 win at Northampton Demons.

 

Leicester are renowned for their strong defense, hard-running forwards and excellent fitness levels. With ex Sheffield Eagles Academy coach Dean Thomas at the helm, the Storm have made great strides in recent weeks. They will provide a stern test of the Sonics’ title credentials.

 

Bristol Sonics’ captain Dom Swann is expecting a very difficult game on Saturday. He said: “All our games against Leicester are close, tight affairs. Although we’ve moved ahead of them in recent seasons, this year they’ve closed the gap. They’ll try and slow us down, take their chances and grind out a win. If we’re going to beat them we need to put together a proper ’80-minute performance’, something we’ve struggled with of late.”

 

Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley looks set to be without a string of first choice players, meaning he could look to partner club and Championship 1 side University of Gloucestershire All Golds for reinforcements. He may also call up a few experienced heads from the second team, as he juggles his resources ahead of a big weekend for Rugby League in Bristol.

 

Bristol Sonics take on Leicester Storm at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze, on Saturday 8 June, kick-off 2.30pm.