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.

Bristol did manage to produce a better second half performance and twice crossed the whitewash in the closing stages to restore some pride, but by then the match had long been decided. Given the season that the Sonics have had, it was a depressing anticlimax for fans, players and club officials alike.
Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley was particularly disappointed with his side’s display. He said: “I’m disappointed with the way the boys played today, and with our approach to the game. We just didn’t seem to be able to play to the level of intensity needed to win tough matches like this. We defended poorly in the first half. While we improved massively in the second half, you can’t expect to give a top team like Nottingham a 21 point start and expect to win. Credit must go to Nottingham for the way they performed, as they were excellent from the word go. That said, we never gave ourselves a chance, and that’s what hurts the most.”

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.

It got worse for Bristol. Further tries followed for the impressive Calland and a second for Campbell, and the visitors found themselves 20-0 up after just 22 minutes. Bristol briefly rallied late in the first half and saw a Marcus Brooker try chalked off for a forward pass, but the Outlaws were well worth their healthy lead. They rubbed salt into Sonics’ wounds on the half time hooter when Paul Calland slotted over a drop goal to edge the Outlaws further ahead.

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)


T: Alex Whittle, Sam Campbell 2, Paul Calland

G: Paul Calland 2 (from 4). DG: Paul Calland

Referee: Danny McNiece
Man of the Match: Paul Calland (Nottingham Outlaws)

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