Bristol Sonics’ dreams of a first Conference League South Grand Final appearance were dashed on Saturday, as they fell to a disappointing 21-8 defeat to in-form Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC.
The Sonics saved arguably their poorest performance of the season for their biggest game of the campaign. Nottingham, on the other hand, were inspired, and produced a performance worthy of the occasion. They were at Bristol right from the start, and had built up a 20-0 lead in just over 20 minutes. From then on, there was always going to be one winner.
Nottingham played some dazzling rugby in the first half and seemed to catch Bristol cold. They opened the scoring after just six minutes, scrum half Alex Whittle carving open Bristol’s defence with a simple dummy before jogging 30 metres to touch down. Two minutes later, they extended their lead further when a clever cross-field kick from Paul Calland found space behind the Sonics defence. Winger Sam Campbell scooped the ball up two metres from the line and dived over to touch down.
Bristol lay siege to the Nottingham line for long periods in the second half, but struggled to breach the visitors’ well-organised defence. The home side did manage two scores in the final 10 minutes – centres Marcus Brooker and Mike Gaston crossing after excellent improvised attacking play – but by then Nottingham had already booked their place in the Grand Final on September 15.
It was a deflating end to what has largely been an excellent season for the Sonics, who finished second in the league having lost just three games all year.
BRISTOL SONICS 8
T: Marcus Brooker, Mike Gaston
Sin-bin: Wes Rodgers (79 mins – dissent)
NOTTINHAM OUTLAWS 21
T: Alex Whittle, Sam Campbell 2, Paul Calland
G: Paul Calland 2 (from 4). DG: Paul Calland