Bristol Sonics ended their regular season with a hard fought victory away to bottom-placed club St Albans Centurions. Travelling without a number of first team regulars, the Sonics made hard work of the first half but found their feet as the game went on to turn around a 22-20 half-time deficit to win 22-30.
The visitors struggled to get going in a first half played into a strong wind and against a St Albans side determined to get something out of their final game. The Sonics were guilty of not completing sets within their own half and St Albans made them pay with 2 tries within the first 10 minutes. The away side thought they had pulled one back after a 70m move saw winger James Raymond cross the line but his attempt was ruled out for a double movement.
Things got better for the hosts as they stretched their lead to 16-0 with another close range try having taken advantage of the Sonics indiscipline. But this seemed to finally stir the Bristol side into action and they hauled themselves back in to the game. First a Dom Swann cross-field kick was brilliantly palmed back in-field by wing Andre Samura for Marcus Brooker to go over for the first Sonics’ opener. Brooker, playing in the slightly unfamiliar position of half-back, also broke Swann’s five year old record of tries in a season as he crossed for what was his 17th try this year.
Brooker then turned provider when his half-break was supported by fullback Dan Evans to grab the Sonics’ second try which was converted by Swann. St Albans extended their lead with another converted try but Bristol struck back with two of their own to almost draw level in a half during which they had been second best. First Marcus Brooker’s neat kick over the line was collected by centre Mike Gaston who stepped past some desperate tackles for a try which was converted by Swann. Then on the stroke of half-time Dan Brooker crashed over out wide after some slick passing between the half-backs. Swann couldn’t convert to leave the half-time score 22-20.
After some stern words from coach Karl Fearnley the Sonics looked a better team in the second half. Although far from their free-flowing best, the visitors started making better use of their possession and the defence looked a lot tighter. In a fairly tight half the Sonics line was rarely tested and it wasn’t long before the lead had changed hands. Swann caught his own chip over the defensive line on the 5th tackle and moved the ball out to his half-back partner Brooker who put Anton Wells in for a try on debut. With Swann down winded after the move Brooker took over kicking duties and coolly slotted the conversion.
But the Sonics struggled to find the killer move that would secure the game. They thought they had it when Gaston touched down only for it to be ruled off-side. It finally came with 5 minutes left on the clock as some persistent pressure was turned into points when Dan Brooker got his second of the afternoon to leave the final score 22-30.
The result was irrelevant in terms of the league as second place had already been secured which brings with it a home play-off against 3rd placed Nottingham Outlaws. The Sonics will be hoping to welcome back a few key players for the game at Clifton RFC on Saturday 31st September.
BRISTOL SONICS: 1. Dan Evans 2. Andre Samura 3. James Gross 4. Mike Gaston 5. James Raymond 6. Dom Swann 7. Marcus Brooker 8. Wes Rodgers 9. Harry Marson 10. Dan Brooker 11. Lee Bartlett 12. Anton Wells 13. Joe Singleton 14. Will Tobin 15. Archie Gibbs 16. Matt Jacobs
Dan Brooker (2)
Dom Swann (2)