Bristol Sonics needed a dramatic last-gasp try from veteran fullback James Gross to overcome Conference League South newcomers Leicester Storm and retain their unbeaten start to the season.
The Sonics were trailing 18-16 with seconds remaining when Gross somehow found a way to unlock Leicester’s dogged defence with the last play of the game. Although skipper Dom Swann missed the conversion attempt, it was enough to guarantee Bristol a narrow 20-18 victory.
Earlier the Sonics had built up a 10-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes, only to see it wiped out before half time. A beautiful pass from centre Mike Gaston set up on-loan University of Gloucestershire All Golds’ forward Sam Blaney for the opening try of the game, before hooker Matt Williams extended the lead after charging down a kick.
On the back of a number of penalties for Bristol indiscipline, Leicester hit back, crossing the whitewash three times to hold a 14-10 half time lead.
The Sonics piled on the pressure early in the second half, but Leicester’s determined defence held firm. Bristol continued to give away penalties, allowing Storm to relieve the pressure.
Eventually the Sonics regained the lead when on-loan All Golds hooker Rory Sharratt scooting over from dummy half with just over 10 minutes remaining. Skipper Swann’s conversion put Bristol two points ahead at 16-14.
Leicester attempted to level the scores with a penalty kick at goal, but the attempt bounced back off the post. 30 seconds later they squeezed over the try line out wide to give themselves a great chance of grabbing their first win of the season.
Sadly for the home supporters they couldn’t hold out under extreme pressure from the Sonics. As he’s done many times before, Gross produced a moment of magic to save Bristol’s bacon.
The result means the Sonics stay second in Conference League South, tied on points with Nottingham Outlaws. The two sides will lock horns next Saturday at Clifton RFC, kick-off 2.30pm.