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SONICS AIM TO HIT HEIGHTS AS SEASON REACHES CLIMAX

Bristol Sonics hopes of winning the 2015 West of England League title could be decided in the next week and a half, as the city’s Rugby League club faces three top-of-the-table clashes in quick succession.

The Sonics currently sit second in the West of England League table, with three games remaining. To have any chance of topping the table, and therefore getting a prime draw for the end-of-season Championship play-offs, Bristol must win all of those matches – starting with tomorrow night’s top-of-the-table clash with unbeaten leaders Bath & Wiltshire Romans at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground (Wednesday 29th July, kick-off 7.30pm).

Bath & Wiltshire Romans have been a revelation this year, marking their debut season in the West of England League with a string of brilliant performances. The Corsham-based outfit has made the most of their links with the armed forces, and can call upon a number of British Army Rugby League players with Great Britain Combined Services experience. 

In contrast, pre-season title favourites Bristol have endured an up-and-down season. High-scoring defeats of local rivals Somerset Vikings and Swindon St George were followed by narrow and frustrating defeats to Somerset and Cheltenham Phoenix. Following a number of weeks playing friendlies, the Sonics returned to league action on Saturday, holding off a late charge from Swindon St George to emerge victorious 24-28 at Swindon Supermarine Sports Club. That win leaves the Sonics second in the table, ahead of Somerset on points difference, with three tough games to play.

Bristol Sonics player/coach Dom Swann is under no illusions about the task facing his side on Wednesday night. He said: “Bath have been the form team in this division, and rightly sit top of the table. They’re a well-drilled, athletic side who have benefitted greatly from strong links with nearby British Army barracks and their strong Rugby League teams. We’ll have to be at the top of our game to beat them, but we have it in us to deliver what would probably be a shock given their strong form this season. If we do the basics well and defend better than we have done all season, we’ll push them close at the very least.”

Swann has been unable to pick from a full squad for much of the season, with a combination of illness, injury and player unavailability hindering his side’s quest for consistency. This week he’ll be missing a number of key players, including experienced heads Tom and Rob Verber, Will Tobin, Sam Collins and Mike Norman, but is bolstered by the return to action of hard-running prop forward Tony Harvey and younger brother Daniel. Swann also returns to the side after missing Saturday’s trip to Swindon, and his play-making partnership with hooker Alex Potts will be key to Bristol’s chances of overcoming a strong Romans side.

Swann said: “Wednesday night is not make or break for our play-off chances, but to guarantee finishing in the top two we may need to win two out of our three remaining fixtures. If we lose on Wednesday night, it makes it all that much harder. It certainly makes Saturday’s home game against Cheltenham Phoenix a must-win encounter, whatever happens.”

Following Wednesday night’s top-of-the-table clash, Bristol host Cheltenham Phoenix at Dings Crusaders RFC on Saturday August 1st, before travelling to Bath & Wiltshire Romans the following Saturday, 8th August. Entrance to both games will be free of charge, though the Sonics will be collecting donations to the fund set up by the family of Cheltenham player Zac France, who was seriously injured during the West of England League cup final earlier in the year.

Bristol Sonics take on Bath and Wiltshire Romans on Wednesday 29th July, kick-off 7.30pm, and Cheltenham Phoenix on Saturday August 1st, kick-off 2.30pm. Both games will take place at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC.

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Revenge of the Outlaws

The weekend saw the U16’s do battle again once more with the Rhondda Outlaws. This is a team that we beat in their home fixture recently and also teamed up with in the tournament at the start of the season.

On a boiling Saturday afternoon everything started right for the Sonics who opened the scoring with a cheeky move that saw the ball go up in the air and ending in a try. Then came the onslaught as the Outlaws refused to lose a second game to a depleted Sonics side.

Just before half time the Sonics managed a sneaky kick in the dying seconds to give a glimmer of hope as a try was scored. A glimmer was all it was after the Outlaws opened the Sonics up through the second half, ending the game 10 – 70.

Although it was a loss, a lot could be taken from the game. We had lost 5 experienced players, and gained 9 who had never played league before. With more games and training there is no doubt that the Sonics will only get better and stronger with time.

Special mention to Joe Uren who stepped up to Captain the team whilst Connor Grant was off.

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A Tale of Two Teams

This weekend saw both of our junior sides against the Aber Valley Wolves. A team that the Bristol Sonics have never beaten. Was this about to change or would the Sonics fall in Caerphilly!

First up was the U14’s, a team that has yet to have much time playing together. The first half was a wet, physical battle that saw the Wolves do damage to a fighting Sonics side. No matter what the sonics did they just couldnt manage to get through and score the try that looked like it would come. The second half was a different story altogether and although the Wolves managed to get two scores they struggled the rest of the time to get out of their own half. The Sonics U14’s began working hard for each other and can take a lot of positives from the second half. The game finished 38 – 0 to the Wolves. But this score doesn’t reflect the second half performance of the Sonics. A special mention has to go to Harry Iles who was injured 5 minutes into the first half but didn’t come off the pitch until 10 minutes until the end of the game. We hope you heal up well and are back with us soon.

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Next up was the Under 16’s, could they do any better or would the Wolves managed to keep their unbeaten record against the Sonics. From the start the Sonics were on the attack and slowly built a decent lead into half time. Nothing could be taken away from the Wolves though as they literally used their players as battering rams to get through a tough and resilient Sonics defence. Both teams were ready to get the second half started and the Wolves didn’t look like they would just lay down. A moment of comedy was allowed when a Wolves player took a slip as he went to kick off. That slip was just a cherry on top of the cake for the Sonics who ran out 58 – 18 winners. In just three games this Sonics U16’s team has really come together and each one of them deserved a MOM.

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BATTLING SONICS OUT-GUNNED BY MARINES

Bristol Sonics put in a battling display against a Royal Marines side which pulled away late in the game to record a 22-46 win. It came down to fitness in the end as the Sonics, with only 2 interchanges available on the night, tired in the last 15 minutes to let the Services team run in some late tries to seal the victory.

The Sonics arguably had the best of a see-saw first half and got their noses in front 3 times only for the Marines to haul them back in. After just 5 minutes captain Alex Potts put the home side ahead with a short range try after some strong carries from the Sonics pack. The Marines struck back through a misfielded kick but Potts was over again from the resulting kick-off as the left edge forced an error and winger Phil Tanner found his captain who barged through 2 defenders to score.

A well-worked try out wide from the Marines levelled things up again at 12-12 before the Sonics grabbed their third – this time Tanner turned scorer thanks to a great offload from centre Mike Gaston. Dom Swann added his 3rd conversion of the evening before a soft try let the visitors back in at 18-18. The Sonics finished the half with a period of pressure on the Marines line but will feel frustrated not to have added to their total whilst the Marines were down to 12 men after a yellow card. Three good scoring chances were missed before the half time whistle went.

The second half was always going to be tougher proposition for the Sonics given their limited bench as a number of players were unavailable due to work and other commitments. It remained a tight encounter in the early stages but the Marines struck first and managed to build up a 2 try lead. Swann pulled one back after collecting his own chip to cross out wide but it proved to be the only points of the second half. With the game still in the balance the home side started to tire badly and the fresher Marines team started to find some holes. Two long range tries sealed the victory and although the Sonics kept battling they couldn’t get over the line. Joe Singleton should have grabbed a consolation but knocked on over the line to leave the final score at 22-46. Perhaps a bit flattering to the Marines but they certainly deserved the win.

Sonics man of the match went to Josh Stupples after a storming performance at prop on his return to the team.

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Battle of Mountain Ash

This Sunday saw the Bristol Sonics U16’s go up against a very tough Rhondda Outlaws side. The Outlaws had beaten the Swansea Valley Rhinos 40 -16 just the Sunday before and had previously teamed up with the Sonics at the tournament in Wales at the start of the season, So the Sonics knew just how tough these outlaws could be.

With both the South Wales Scorpions and Coventry Bears first teams in attendance both teams played to impress, and it turned into a game that everyone watching was still talking about when the Kingstone Press League One teams took to the field. The pressure built in the game from start to finish with both teams finishing in a draw (22 – 22) at half time.

The second half impressed even more with both teams wanting to score the winning try. But it was a last second game saving tackle that secured a win for the Sonics in what looked like a winning move for the Outlaws. The game finished 38 – 36 to the Sonics in an encounter that neither team deserved to lose. Both the Sonics and the Outlaws could walk off the pitch with their heads held high knowing that they impressed everyone in the ground in an U16’s match that probably won’t be bettered this season for action.

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SONICS SET FOR MARINES MATCH

The Sonics will host the Royal Marines RL this Wednesday (24th June)  in a friendly fixture at Dings Crusaders RFC, 7pm kick-off.

The Marines are a military representative side and play annual fixtures against both military and civilian opponents.It will be the first time the 2 sides have met and will provide the Sonics with a final 13-a-side match before they have 2 weekends of 9’s in Brighton and Swindon.

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Junior Sonics Battle To The End

11401212_10206872326037298_6281377343973239084_nWith the sun beaming down on Sunday both the U14 and U16 Sonics Junior Academy took to the field against South Wales Rabbitohs and Pill Harriers respectively.

First up were the Sonics U14’s who went toe to toe with the Rabbitohs. It was a hard learning curve for the U14’s who were up against a much bigger opposition. Although the score ended 80 -0 to the Rabbitohs nothing could be taken away from the Sonics U14’s who carried on fighting until the end.

Next up was the U16’s against a Pill Harriers side that finished as champions in their Union League last season. The score ended 70 – 8 to the Harriers although most spectators thought there was a lot more in the competition.

All the players came off the pitch having enjoyed very tough, physical games but fun none the less. Every player deserves to hold their heads up high after very positive and encouraging game play. Now on to the next one.

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Sonics Youth In Action

The Bristol Sonics Youth Academy were in action last weekend with a League tournament in Wales.

The U16’s and U13’s both played well with the U13’s bringing home the first piece of Youth Academy Silverwear of the season. Well done to all of the boys who were involved and thank you to the parents who helped out.

Training is now every Wednesday from 19:00 until 20:30 with matchdays every Sunday. To keep up to date with everything that is happening please join the facebook group ‘Bristol Sonics Junior Academy’. The cost is £20 for the season and this includes a team polo shirt.

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11-TRY SONICS SMASH SOMERSET

Bristol Sonics began their West of England League campaign with a comfortable 62-0 victory over local rivals Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue.

 

The Sonics scored 11 tries in total, with fullback Mike Norman grabbing a hat-trick, and Tom and Rob Verber each claiming a brace. Player/coach Dom Swann finished with nine conversions.

 

Following their withdrawal from Conference League South earlier in the year, Bristol began the West of England League season in confident fashion. The 19-man match-day squad contained 10 debutants, including two graduates from the club’s successful under-16 academy team. They were joined by a raft of regulars from the club’s doomed 2014 Conference League South campaign,

 

The Sonics had the better of the opening exchanges, opening the scoring on six minutes via a 40-metre diagonal run to the try line from loose forward Rob Verber. Five minutes later Bristol extended their lead, Mike Norman picking up a grounded off-load from Mike Gaston to zip in underneath the posts.

 

Somerset hit back, and enjoyed a spell of pressure that tested the resolution of the home side’s defence. Bristol held firm, though, and edged further ahead on 25 minutes thanks to a stunning 65-metre try from Norman.

 

Although the Sonics held a 16-0 lead at half time, the game remained in the balance. Somerset tired quickly in the second half, though, and Bristol ran riot, notching up eight tries in the process.

 

Mike Gaston began the rout a minute into the half, scooping up an attempted interception from Somerset to trot in unopposed out wide. Six minutes later Rob Verber notched up his second try of the afternoon, forcing his way over from close range after some weak Vikings tackling.

 

Two tries in eight minutes from brother Tom Verber – the second from a brilliant slip pass from former skipper Dom Swann – extended Bristol’s lead further, before Max Woodward marked an impressive debut with a try following a surging 35 metre run down the left.

 

Mike Norman completed his hat-trick on 67 minutes, scooting out from a play the ball 45 metres out and rounding the last remaining Vikings defender. Another debutant was next on the scoreboard, Gerry Darley capping a fine performance with a first try for the club. The rout was completed with two minutes to go, when replacement winger Shervin Ghassemlou scorched down the wing and cut back inside, before turning Somerset’s full back and touching down in the corner.

 

Player/coach Dom Swann was happy with his side’s performance. He said: “I was really impressed by the team today. We defended really well and barely looked like conceding. In attack we made a few errors, but played a good, controlled game, with occasional bursts of flowing rugby. After the winter we’ve had, it’s great getting back on the field and performing strongly. There will be tougher tests ahead, but this was an excellent start.”

 

Attention now turns to the “open meeting” the Sonics’ have called to discuss the future of Rugby League in Bristol. The meeting takes place on Sunday 10th May at Dings Crusaders RFC on Landseer Avenue in Lockleaze, starting at noon.

 

MATCH FACTS

 

BRISTOL SONICS SCORERS

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

C: Dom Swann 9 (from 11)

 

TEAMS

 

Bristol Sonics: Mike Norman, James Potts, John Jackson, Tom Oxlade, Joe Moore, Dom Swann, Mike Gaston (captain), Byron Edwards, Alex Potts, Connor Grant, Tom Verber, Joe Singleton, Rob Verber. Interchange: Simon Takape, Gerry Darley, Max Woodward, Kieran Harvey, Shervin Ghassemlou, Tristan Moore.

 

Somerset Vikings: Ben Williams, Zeky Cheng, Doug Caddick, Josh Wood, Cam Hellier, James Collings, Kevin Zenyama, Fergus Wood, Jay Hill, Bob Blainey, Jordan Tucker, Stephan Pierce, Joe Bossell. Interchange: Connor Crampton, John Ferguson, Ryan Sheppard, Ash Tucker.

 

MAN OF THE MATCH AWARDS

Sonics: John Jackson

Vikings: Joe Bossell

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SONICS SET FOR SEASON-OPENING SOMERSET TEST

Bristol Sonics will look to put the troubles of the past few months behind them when they start their West of England League campaign on Saturday.

 

Having withdrawn from the elite Conference League South competition earlier this year due to on and off-field issues, the Sonics have returned to their roots in the regional leagues, keen to rebuild the club from the ground upwards over coming years.

 

This weekend is a key part of that rebuilding process. Following the open age team’s game on Saturday, training for the Sonics Academy – the club’s hugely popular junior section – begins on Sunday morning (10am, Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze). At noon on Sunday, the Sonics are also hosting an “open meeting” for those interested in Rugby League in the area to come down, hear the club’s plans, and volunteer to get involved.

 

First, though, the club will be concentrating on matters on the field, with an enticing season-opener against friends and local rivals Somerset Vikings on Saturday afternoon (Dings Crusaders RFC, 2.30pm, free entry).

 

The two clubs met briefly in last weekend’s South West 9s Competition, with the Sonics coming out victorious on their way to the semi-finals. This weekend, though, looks set to be a much tougher and more demanding contest, with the Vikings likely to travel up to Bristol with a strong side.

 

Sonics player/coach Dom Swann has also named a strong squad for the game. It contains no less than eight players with experience of the Sonics’ previous Conference League South campaign, including the experienced Verber brothers, full-back Mike Norman, centre Mike Gaston, and second-row Joe Singleton. They’ll be joined by a swathe of new players, including forward Byrone Jerome, who starred in the Sonics’ nines exploits last weekend. The squad also includes two graduates of last year’s Sonics Academy under-16 side, Connor Grant and Joe Moore.

Swann is genuinely excited by the season ahead. He said: “Everyone knows we’ve been struggling, and had to make some hard decisions over the winter about where our future lies, for the time being at least. Since withdrawing from Conference League South, the response from players has been excellent. Numbers at training have been up, and there’s a great team spirit developing. Players are enjoying their rugby again, which is hugely important.

“In some ways, it doesn’t matter how we get on this season in terms of where we finish, or whether we win any silverware. We have some goals, which I’m not willing to discuss, but to begin with we’re going to take it week by week, and try to develop as a team. I’m looking for a big start, but we’re not under-estimating Somerset – we’ve had some brilliant games against them in the past, and they’re always a tough side to play.”

 

Bristol Sonics face Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, on Saturday 9th May, kick-off 2.30pm. Entrance is free of charge.