Bristol Sonics moved off the foot of the Conference League 3 table for the first time this season after notching up a memorable 24-42 win over South Wales Hornets at Blackwood RFC.It was Bristol’s fourth straight Conference League 3 victory, following memorable wins against Nottingham Outlaws, Bramley Buffaloes and, most impressively, runaway league leaders Hemel Stags.The victory over struggling South Wales, who now drop to the foot of the Conference League 3 table, came after a dazzling first half display in which Bristol played some of their best attacking rugby of the season. Although the Hornets produced a stirring performance in the second half, it was never going to be enough to overturn the Sonics 36-4 half time advantage.Bristol began brightly, prop Dan Brooker putting second-rower Jake Robertson through a gap straight from the kick-off. Robertson was hauled down 30 metres from the line, but it set the tone for an impressive opening period from the Sonics.Within five minutes Bristol were ahead, Gloucestershire University flier James Gahan finishing off a fine move instigated by Sonics skipper Dom Swann. Bristol’s longest serving player chipped over the Hornets right side defence on half way, collected and released Gahan with an audacious, one handed “round the back” offload. The winger did the rest, finishing in style. Swann added the first of seven successful conversions to put Bristol 6-0 ahead.It was to get better for the Sonics minutes later, as scrum half Johan Schoeman fooled the Hornets’ defence with an audacious dummy and ran 20 metres to touch down to the right of the posts. Swann again converted.By the 15 minute mark, the Sonics had extended their lead to 18 points as Elliot Nightingale went over following a strong carry from outstanding forward Wes Rodgers. Bristol, full of confidence following their shock victory over Hemel, were playing with the kind of go-forward and attacking fluidity previously lacking earlier in the season.Gahan in particular was a strong threat down the right hand side, his speed and broken field running proving too much for a South Wales team low on confidence. The Hornets first serious attack ended with a high crossfield kick aimed towards Gahan’s win. He plucked the ball out of the air brilliantly and set off on a 70 metre run towards the Hornets’ line. Although he was denied by a great last-gasp tackle by Ian Newbury, the ball was moved quickly to winger James Raymond, who dived over between the sticks to extend Bristol’s advantage.With Bristol on top, Sonics Head Coach Karl Fearnley freshened things up by throwing up two new prop forwards, Curtis Asante and Gary Carpenter. Both would have an enormous impact.Asante looked threatening every time he touched the ball and soon had a try of his own to celebrate. Collecting the ball on half way, he barged all-comers out of the way on a dominant sprint to the line. Although the Hornets tackling left a lot to be desired, much credit should be given to the young prop for the speed and strength he showed on his barnstorming run to the line.Bristol’s wonder half was completed when Asante’s fellow interchange prop, Gary Carpenter, collected an excellent offload from centre Andre Samura and trotted away to touch down from 30 metres out. This was to be Carpenter’s last game for the Sonics this season, after taking up the offer of a first contract with Bridgend rugby union. He certainly signed off in style.The Sonics fluffed a golden opportunity to bring up 40 points before half time before Steve Williams gave the home side some hope with a close range try seconds before the interval, but it did little to take the gloss off what had been a remarkable first half performance by Bristol.The second half proved to be a whole lot more difficult for the Sonics, who were unable to match the intensity and excellent completion rate they’d shown in the first. Errors by the visitors were plentiful, and a string of penalties for lazy indiscipline offered the Hornets the kind of possession and good field position they’d been lacking in the first half. Although Bristol largely defended well – hooker Harry Marson, second row Matt Douglas and the tireless Wes Rodgers leading the way – South Wales mounted a comeback which had the Sonics’ long-suffering supporters anxiously glancing at the scoreboard.From their first serious attacking position of the half, South Wales scored, Mike Hurley rising highest to claim a high cross-field kick from Paul Emanuelli. Further tries followed from Williams and Mike Hurley, but Bristol still held all the aces. With 12 minutes remaining Wales Students international Nathan Rainer broke free to score underneath the sticks to steady the Sonics nerves. Although Liam Watton scored for the Hornets a minute from time, it was too little, too late.

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