Bristol Sonics and Bath & Wiltshire Romans will renew their on-field rivalry this Saturday, for the first time since last year’s thrilling West of England Grand Final.
Both sides lost their opening fixtures of the 2016 season to title favourites United Services Portsmouth Navy Seahawks, and will be desperate to notch up a first win of the campaign when they meet at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Bristol and Bath were closely matched last season, with the aggregate score of their three 2015 matches remarkably being dead level. While the Sonics won in Bath in the lead up to August’s Grand Final, they lost out by four points in the game that mattered. As a result, player/coach Dom Swann is keen to put that right this weekend.
Swann said: “Losing the Grand Final hurt, particularly as we let a sizeable lead slip, but even to reach the showpiece season-closer was a result given how young and inexperienced our squad was at the start of 2015. All three games against the Romans last season were close-fought crackers, with our first ever meeting, here at Dings, resulting in a 30-all draw. We feel like we’ve got a point to prove, to ourselves more than Bath, and we’re all fired up and focused on getting a win on Saturday”.
The Sonics have been in training for the last three weeks, following their high-scoring 69-56 opening day loss against the Seahawks. Naturally, much focus has been on getting their defensive structure right ahead of further tests to come.
Dom Swann, who missed the Portsmouth game for family reasons, said: “By all accounts our inexperienced side did very well in attack, but struggled to defend well in certain areas of the pitch. We’ve traditionally been fairly sharp in attack and capable of scoring points, but it’s how well you work without the ball that wins you trophies. I don’t expect us to get it 100% right on Saturday, but we’ve been working hard to correct our mistakes and solidify our defensive line. If we can defend well, we’ll be a match for anyone in this division, even those sides that can call on dual-registered, semi-professional players, such as Oxford Cavaliers”.
Stand-off Swann will return to the starting line-up on Saturday to forge a new half-back partnership with namesake Jamie Swann, while skipper Alex Potts is also back to bolster the Sonics’ ranks. Experienced players Elliot Nightingale, Byron Jerome and Joe Singleton are all likely to feature for the first time, but Swann must do without fellow player-coach Lawrence Rycroft and loose forward George Burnie, who scored four tries in the loss at Portsmouth.
Bristol Sonics face Bath & Wiltshire Romans at Dings Crusaders RFC, Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, on Saturday June 4th, kicking off at 2.30pm. Entrance is free for spectators.