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RETURNING PLAYERS BOOST SONICS

Bristol Sonics coach Karl Fearnley has been boosted by the return of two student internationals for Satiurday’s trip to fellow Conference League 3 newcomers St Albans Centurians (K.O 2.30pm).Hard-running prop forward Nathan Rainer is fit to return after starring in Wales Students’ Academic 4 Nations Final victory over England last week, while centre Marcus Brooker, who grabbed a hatful of tries for England Students in the same competition, is fit and raring to go after only featuring briefly for the Sonics last weekend.Fearnley has been frustrated in recent weeks by having a number of players missing through injury, illness and international competition, but can now pick from an almost full first team squad for the first time this year.Fearnley said: “It’s great to be able to have selection issues. The lads have training incredibly well this week and are all focused on getting that first Conference League 3 victory of the season. St Albans are a great side, who have generally picked up better results than us. They’ve also missed out in a few tight games. I know for a fact that their coach identified the matches against us as “must win” ones. That means the pressure’s on them. I just want to see an improved performance for 80 minutes. We’ve been getting better, but we’re not there yet.”Last weekend the Sonics came close to recording a first victory of the season, but a mixture of poor set completion and indiscipline once again cost them, as Bramley Buffaloes scored three times in the last 20 minutes to win 20-4.Fearnley said: “It was incredibly frustrating to watch, if I’m honest. At half time we looked the better side and the more likely to win. The second half we were poor. We only completed 3 sets of six out of the 11 or 12 we had in that 40 minutes. We have away too much ball and too many penalties. We can’t afford to keep doing that if we want to win matches at this level.”Fearnley said: “It’s been very tough for us so far this season, but we expected that when we stepped up into the national leagues. It takes a while to adapt to the physical and mental demands of a higher intensity of rugby. Although we’ve had some serious beatings, there are things we are doing every week. The way we played against Kippax, South Wales and at times against Coventry shows that we can compete in this division. If we keep improving a little every week, wins will come.”While the Sonics’ firsts search for that elusive first victory, the second team are keen on getting back to winning ways after narrowly losing to local rivals Gloucestershire Warriors A last Saturday. Bristol Sonics A welcome bitter rivals Swindon St George to Aretians (kick-off 2.30pm, free entry) on Saturday, and nothing less than a win would do.

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