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SONICS SECONDS SWING INTO ACTION

Bristol Sonics’ second team are set to take centre stage this Saturday (11 May), as they open their West of England League campaign against fierce local rivals Swindon St George at Avonmouth Old Boys RFC, Shirehampton (K.O 2.30pm).

 

With the unbeaten first team away at St Albans Centurions (Toulmin Drive, St Albans, 2.30pm), a healthy crowd is expected at Barracks Lane for the Sonics’ second team’s first game of 2013.

 

Bristol Sonics A compete in the West of England League, alongside Gloucestershire Warriors, Cheltenham Old Patesians, Oxford Cavaliers, Somerset Vikings and Saturday’s opponents, Swindon St George.

 

With first team places at a premium following the Sonics’ partnership agreement with the University of Gloucestershire All Golds, Bristol Sonics A can call on plenty of experience as they look to get their 2013 campaign off to the best possible start.

 

Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley will be pulling on his boots again for a rare run out at hooker, while the squad also contains nine players with previous first team experience, and a string of debutants.

 

Fearnley, who for this week has handed over first team coaching duties to former second team player/coach Aran Simm, said: “We’ve been delighted by the number of people who have committed to the second team this year, and the willingness of first team squad members to prove their form and fitness in the seconds. I know all the players are looking forward to showing me what they can do to try and force their way into the first team as the season progresses.”

 

The pack of forwards set to take to the field at Avonmouth on Saturday includes a number of Sonics legends. Tristan Moore, Jack Gibson, Joe Singleton and Josh Sampson are all set to feature, alongside replacements Dave Leach, James Pritchard, ambitious hooker Andy Parsons and returning second-rower Dan Wegryzn.

 

Meanwhile, the Sonics’ first team continue their pursuit of Conference League South points with a trip to St Albans Centurions.

 

The Sonics’ first team have won each of their first four games this season, recording vital wins over Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, Northampton Demons, Leicester Storm and Nottingham Outlaws.

 

The ‘firsts’ are boosted by the return of hooker Harry Marson, utiity player Andre Samura, and second-rower Sam Blaney. Dan Brooker is in line to make his first appearance of the season, joining brother Marcus, who scored his first try for the All Golds against Gateshead last weekend.

 

St Albans have been in poor form in recent weeks, but Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann is expecting a very tough game. He said: “We’re expecting a very tough game from the Centurions on Saturday. They’re a great club who do things the right way, and last season we had two very tight games with them. I’d expect it to be the same this week, especially at their place. If we’re even a little bit off the pace, we’ll get beaten, and we can’t afford to slip up now.”

 

Fans wishing to keep up to date with the first team match can view live text updates on the Sonics’ Twitter account: http://twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL

 

Entrance to Bristol Sonics A v Swindon St George at Avonmouth Old Boys RFC is free. Kick-off on Saturday (11th May) is 2.30pm.

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SONICS ANNOUNCE 2013 JUNIOR PROGRAMME

In the build-up to the arrival of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in Bristol this autumn, Bristol Sonics have announced a full summer programme of junior Rugby League in the city.

The programme features a mix of training sessions and summer camps for under 14s (12-14 years-old) and under 16s (14-16), as well as coaching in four secondary schools around Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The programme, which is being run in association with the University of Gloucestershire All Golds and Clifton RFC, will begin in May and run until September.

The action begins on Sunday 19th May at Clifton RFC in Henbury (10.30am), with a 90-minute taster session for boys aged between 12 and 16 (Under 14s and Under 16s). The sessions, which will be run by fully qualified and CRB-checked coaches, continue weekly until July and will lead to matches against other teams in the region.

Throughout June, Sonics coaches will also conduct weekly sessions in four secondary schools in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, including John Cabot Academy, which will include coaching for Year 8 and Year 9 girls. The schools programme will culminate with a junior Rugby League festival in the first week of July.

For the first time, the Sonics will also be running a series of extended weekday ‘summer camps’ for U14 and U16 boys during the school holidays. The sessions, which take place at Clifton RFC in Henbury, begin on July 17 and continue until September 4.

Any parents or players interested in playing junior Rugby League in Bristol and South Gloucestershire this summer can find more information and contact details for coaches at www.bristolsonics.com

Q&A

Q: What ages can play junior rugby with the Sonics?

A: The Sonics are running Under 14 and Under 16 age groups. Boys can play “one year up” according to RFL rules so U14s covers anyone in school years 8 and 9, and U16’s covers school years 10 and 11. The longer–term aim is to start an U19’s team but at the moment the only option for anyone aged over 16 is to train with the senior squads.

Q: Do I need to register before coming to a training session?

A: No, a brief registration form will need to be filled in but that can be done when you attend your first training session.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: The cost is £25 for the season which covers a training t-shirt (will be given out as soon as payment received), training costs and match day costs and insurance.

Q: When will matches be held?

A: Matches will be held on Sunday mornings, typically with an 11:00 kick-off. The match schedule for both age groups is being finalised with teams from Gloucestershire, Somerset and South Wales .

Q: Where are training / matches held?

A: Clifton RFC. Directions here: http://www.bristolsonics.com/the-club/find-us/

Q: How are the Club’s coaches qualified?

A: All of the Club’s coaches are qualified through accredited RFL (Rugby Football League) coaching courses to UKCC Level 2. All coaches are also is First aid qualified, have completed the RFL’s Safeguarding and Protecting Children course and are Criminal Records bureau (CRB) checked.

 

Q: What equipment do I need to play Rugby League?

A: For matches a playing shirt will be provided by the club but players should bring suitable rugby shorts and socks. For training children will be expected to wear their own suitable kit, although will be provided with a training shirt.

Rugby / football boots and gum shields should be brought to training and matches. Players can wear padded tops and scrum caps although this is down to personal choice.

 

Q: Do I need to have played Rugby League before?

A: No, full training will be provided.

 

Q: Who can I contact to find out more information?

A: Email juniors@bristolsonics.com and your enquiry will be directed to the correct person.

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SWANN CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Bristol Sonics captain Dom Swann has warned his side that they must improve dramatically to have any chance of maintaining their unbeaten start to the season.

The Sonics face Nottingham Outlaws, holders of Conference League South’s only other 100 per cent record, at Clifton RFC on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm). With the teams currently tied on points at the top of the table, the winners have a chance to go clear of their rivals, and a chasing pack led by pre-season title favourites Sheffield-Hallam Eagles.

Last weekend, the Sonics needed a last minute try from veteran fullback James Gross to keep their winning start to the season in tact. The previous week, they were fairly unimpressive against Conference League South new boys Northampton Demons but ground out a result in terrible conditions.

Skipper Swann knows that the Sonics must improve considerably if they are to maintain their winning start to the season, especially against an in-form Nottingham side that provided stiff competition to Bristol last season.

Swann said: “So far this season the results have been good, but the performances less so. We’ve somehow found enough to win, even when we’ve played badly, but we can’t keep playing poorly and expect to get the results, especially against good sides like Nottingham. This week I’ll be looking for a big improvement.”

In all three matches this season, the Sonics have made life difficult for themselves. Although they’ve often started and ended games well, they’ve yet to put in an ’80 minute performance’.

Stand-off Swann, who is now into his 11th season with the Sonics, is all to aware of the problems that need rectifying. He said: “It’s true that we’ve been making a lot of silly errors and letting our discipline lapse. This has allowed teams to get back into matches we should have been winning comfortably. I think there’s still some rustiness there. We know we’re not in great form, but the response in training has been excellent, and I’m expecting an improved performance on Saturday.”

Swann also praised the support his side has received so far this season. He said: “Despite the foul weather, there was a decent crowd at our first home game against Northampton. It really lifts the team when we have a big crowd cheering us on, so I’d encourage people to get up to Clifton on Saturday and show their support for one of Bristol’s most successful sports teams of recent years.”

Bristol Sonics face Nottingham Outlaws on Saturday, April 27 at Clifton RFC. Entrance to the top-of-the-table clash with Nottingham Outlaws is £3, including complimentary matchday programme. Entry for under-16s is free.

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OLD FOES LIE IN WAIT FOR UNBEATEN BRISTOL

Bristol Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley has called on his players to “remain focused” against old rivals Leicester Storm on Saturday (20 April).

The Sonics travel to New College, Leicester, keen to extend their winning start to the season to three games. They face a Leicester Storm side who have yet to record a victory after stepping up to Conference League South at the beginning of the season.

The two sides have clashed many times over the years, with the Sonics pipping the Storm to the RLC Midlands Premier title in 2011. Contests between the clubs have sometimes been tense, angry affairs, and Fearnley has warned his side to remain disciplined at all times.

Fearnley said: “First and foremost, I want the lads to remain focused at all times on Saturday. We’re there to get a job done – to win the match and get the points. The best way to achieve that outcome is to stick to our game plan, keep our discipline and let our rugby do the talking. Leicester hasn’t made the best start to the season, but they’re a real threat – they are very strong defensively and usually good in the forwards. We’ll have to look after the ball better than we did last week, but if we do that I’m expecting a good performance.”

Fearnley is able to field a number of players from the University of Gloucestershire All Golds, including forwards Sam Blainey and Ollie Yeats, and star centre Marcus Brooker. Loose forward Rob Verber and winger Max Davies are set to return to the starting line-up after missing last week’s hard-fought win over Northampton Demons.

Fans unable to get to the game at New College, Leicester, can follow live score updates and commentary on the Sonics’ Twitter account at http://twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL

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SONICS MAKE HEAVY WEATHER OF DEMONS WIN

Bristol Sonics continued their unbeaten start to the 2013 Southern Conference League season, grinding out a 24-10 win over Northampton Demons at Clifton RFC.

 

The Sonics were always the stronger of the two sides, but made heavy weather of overcoming a determined Demons side who arguably mastered the difficult conditions better.

 

With torrential rain and strong winds sweeping across the chilly “shelf” pitch at Station Lane, it was always going to be an old-fashioned kind of match. With mud-soaked players struggling to hold off a slippery ball and defenses on top, it looked more like a traditional winter amateur game than a free-flowing summer match.

 

Despite the scoreline, Bristol could – and probably should – have won by more points. They built up an 18-0 lead within half an hour, before being pegged back by a Northampton team helped by the home side’s lack of discipline and inability to complete enough sets of six tackles. While the Sonics were never exactly hanging on, they needed Wes Rodgers’ second-half try to settle the nerves of their agitated spectators and give them a bit of breathing space.

 

Things had begun so well. Dom Swann’s kick off was allowed to bounce into touch by Northampton, and from the resultant scrum the Sonics put pressure on the home side’s try line. With just 90 seconds on the clock, dual-registered All Golds star Sam Blaney surged through the visitors’ weak defense and crossed for the first try of the game. Swann’s attempted conversion drifted well wide.

 

The Demons were struggling not only to stop Bristol’s forward momentum – props Ollie Yates and Liam Walker impressing up front – but also to keep hold of the ball when they had it. With so much ball with which to attack the Demons’ defense, it was no surprise that tries came at regular intervals.

 

On 15 minutes, quick hands from hooker Matt Williams and scrum-half Dave Tomlinson allowed skipper Dom Swann to find right winger Tom Davies with a long, hanging pass. Davies showed a great turn of pace to beat the cover tackler and dive in at the corner. Swann’s attempted conversion hit the post, but referee Ian Curzon ordered him to retake it. Amazingly, the veteran stand-off hit the same post with his second attempt.

 

Bristol didn’t have it all their own way in the early exchanges. Referee Curzon took exception to a number of high tackles and Bristol’s aggressive tackling, and Northampton were awarded a string of penalties. On 21 minutes Curzon lost patience with scrum-half Dave Tomlinson, and sent him to the sin-bin for persistent offending.

 

Strangely, Bristol barely struggled while Tomlinson was off the pitch and actually extended their lead further. First, Jake Robertson continued his fine try-scoring form with a typical close-range effort, before prop forward Ollie Yates marked a fine debut by powering his way over close to the posts. This time, Swann was able to convert, putting the Sonics 18-0 up with 30 minutes played.

 

Bristol’s discipline continued to waver, much to the frustration of the crowd, and more cheap penalties gifted Northampton a way back into a match they looked destined to lose by a cricket score.

 

With 33 minutes on the clock Demons winger Reese Rance reacted first to a beautiful crossfield kick from impressive stand-off Ollie Furness. The ball looked to be heading out, but somehow Rance touched it down just milimetres from the dead ball line.

 

Then, on the stroke of half time, Bristol again gifted Northampton a chance to attack on the back of another penalty, this time for a ripping the ball out of the attacker’s hands. Scrum-half Daniel Watts took advantage, turning an angled run to the line into a try-scoring opportunity. The Sonics weren’t impressed, though, as it appeared that the ball had been knocked on at the play-the-ball in the build-up. Either way, the score stood, Furness converted and the Demons were back within eight points.

 

This unlikely comeback seemed to spur the visitors on. They were arguably the better team in the second half. While they hardly threatened the Sonics line, their simple game plan and excellent kicking game made it difficult for the home side. Bristol didn’t help themselves much, either, with plenty of dropped balls and few completed sets of six tackles. Fortunately, their defense was too strong for the Demons, who struggled to penetrate or make decent ground.

 

The Sonics believed they had the game wrapped up on 55 minutes, when Marcus Brooker broke through the line and slid in to score. Referee Curzon thought otherwise, and spotted a knock-on from Brooker as he was crossing the line. Northampton were naturally delirious.

 

Bristol did finally get a score to settle the nerves and secure the win, and it came from the best piece of play of the whole match. Swann found centre Mike Gaston with a beautifully weighted pass and he sprinted through the line at pace, 30 metres out. He drew the fullback and passed back inside to supporting loose forward Wes Rodgers. Despite juggling with the ball, he rounded the last defender and crashed over between the posts. Swann converted to put Bristol 14 points up with less than 15 minutes remaining.

 

Northampton tried their best to get back into it, but Bristol’s defense was just too strong.

 

After the game, Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley had mixed feelings about the win. He said: “We weren’t at our best today and made far too many poor choices with the ball. We got 18-0 up by playing a simple game that worked in the terrible conditions. We then seemed to lose our heads. I always felt like we had too much for them, but we didn’t make it easy for ourselves. Credit should also go to Northampton who played the conditions very well in the second half and didn’t take a backward step. There’s plenty to work on in training this week.”

 

Next week, Bristol travel to face Leicester Storm at New College, Leicester (kick-off 2.30pm), looking to make it three wins on the bounce. Today, Leicester lost 16-38 to Sheffield-Hallam Eagles.

BRISTOL SONICS (v Northampton Demons, 13/4/13): James Gross, James Raymond, Mike Gaston, Marcus Brooker, Tom Davies; Dom Swann, Dave Tomlinson; Ollie Yates. Matt Williams, Liam Walker, Jake Robertson, Sam Blaney, Wes Rodgers. Subs (all used): Curtis Asante, Darren van Hoof, Jack Spooner, Joe Singleton

 

MATCH FACTS

 

BRISTOL SONICS 24
Sam Blaney, Tom Davies, Jake Robertson, Ollie Yates, Wes Rodgers
Dom Swann 2 (from 5)
Sin-bin: Dave Tomlinson (20 mins) – persistent offending
 
NORTHAMPTON DEMONS 10
Reece Rance, Daniel Watts
Ollie Furness 1 (from 2)
 
Half-time: 18-10
Referee: Ian Curzon
 
MOTM AWARDS
Bristol: Matt Williams (hooker)
Northampton: Ollie Furness (stand-off)

 

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SONICS KICK-OFF WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN

With 200 days to go until the Rugby League World Cup comes to Bristol’s Memorial Stadium, live Rugby League returns to the city tomorrow (Saturday 13th April) for the first time in 2013.

 

With Bristol’s Memorial Stadium hosting the Cook Islands against USA on Wednesday, October 30, tomorrow’s game between Bristol Sonics and Northampton Demons at Clifton RFC (2.3pm kick-off) marks the start of a big year for the sport in the city.

 

The Sonics, who play in the Rugby Football League’s Conference League South competition for leading community clubs outside the game’s Northern ‘heartlands’, go into their first home game of the season on the back of a morale-boosting opening day victory over Sheffield-Hallam Eagles at Don Valley Stadium.

 

The Sonics twice battled back from a 10-point deficit to secure a thrilling, last-gasp 42-40 win over the combined talents of Sheffield Eagles’ Academy and Sheffield Hallam University’s student side.

 

Bristol Sonics Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley will be looking for a similar result, if not scoreline, against Conference League South newcomers Northampton Demons tomorrow.

 

Fearnley said: “Last week’s result and performance was solid, but there’s plenty to work on if we’re serious about winning the league this year. As this is our first home game of the year, we’ll be looking to show both old and new fans just what we’re capable of against a decent Northampton side.”

 

Fearnley looks set to field dual-registered University of All Golds professional players Sam Blaney and Marcus Brooker, who impressed last week with four well taken tries. Last week’s man-of-the-match Jake Robertson has recovered from a knee injury, while Sonics legend James Gross returns to the starting line-up at full back.

 

The Sonics are keen to encourage would-be Rugby League fans, especially those new to the sport, to attend its home matches this season, to give them a taste of the sport in the lead-up to the World Cup. Entrance to all Sonics Conference League South matches will be free to under 16s, with adult entrance £3 (including complimentary matchday programme).

 

Bristol Sonics captain Dom Swann said: “Rugby League is an exciting, all-action sport full of big hits, top handling and exciting tries. If you’ve yet to attend a game, you should come down to Clifton and cheer on the Sonics. We’ve been building something good now for over 10 years, and there’s a feeling that we could mark Rugby League World Cup year with something very special. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome from our players, volunteers and supporters.”

 

One confirmed supporter who will be attending tomorrow’s game is Bristol RLWC ambassador and ‘superfan’ Ian ‘Muddy’ Waters. He’s been appointed as one of the match officials for the game, in his role as a fully qualified referee.

 

Bristol Sonics take on Northampton Demons at Clifton RFC on Saturday 13th April, kick-off 2.30pm. Entrance is £3 for adults (including programme), under 16s free.

 

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SONICS LATE-SHOW STUNS SHEFFIELD

 

Bristol Sonics twice battled back from a 10-point deficit to grab a last-gasp 42-40 win over Sheffield-Hallam Eagles at Don Valley Stadium.

 

Prop forward Liam Walker barged his way over the Sheffield line four minutes from time to level the scores, before skipper Dom Swann coolly slotted over the conversion to earn Bristol a nail-biting victory over the highly-fancied home team.

 

Dual-registered University of Gloucestershire All Golds centre Marcus Brooker, returning to the Bristol side he has served so well for the past three seasons, scored four tries, while man-of-the-match Jake Robertson helped himself to a brace.

 

Yet the Sonics could quite easily have lost the game. Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, a new club set up by 2012 Championship winners Sheffield Eagles and Sheffield Hallam University, led for much of the game and twice built up 10-point leads in the second half.

 

Bristol were arguably the better of the two sides from the start, but a combination of errors, slack defense and opportunistic plays kept the home side in the driving seat.

 

The Sonics started well, and twice crossed the whitewash in the early stages only to see the tries ruled out for dropping the ball in the act of scoring. After seeing a third try ruled out on 18 minutes, Bristol fell behind when Bradley Tatersall finished off a fine Sheffield-Hallam break. Tom Holt’s conversion made it 6-0 with 20 minutes gone.

 

Bristol were soon back in the game when Marcus Brooker powered down the left to narrow the arrears to two points. After seeing another try ruled out for a knock-on, Sheffield once again broke away to extend their lead. This time, it was centre Tom Ashton who crossed following a long run from Holt. The latter’s conversion made it 12-4.

 

Jake Robertson burrowed his way over from close range shortly after, Dom Swann converting, before a horrendous error from the otherwise faultless Brooker gifted a try to the home side. 30 metres out from his own line, he threw a loose offload. Sheffield-Hallam speedster Donald Rodangarina snaffled up the ball and sprinted down the touchline to score. Holt again converted to give the home side an 18-10 advantage with less than a minute to go until the break.

 

The drama wasn’t over yet, though. After Sheffield-Hallam made a mess of Swann’s kick-off, Brooker jumped to collect a high bouncing ball, 10 metres out, and trot over unopposed. Swann couldn’t add the extras, meaning the Sonics trailed 18-14 at the break.

 

Bristol finally got their noses in front four minutes into the second half, when Brooker somehow managed to wriggle his way over underneath the posts. Swann’s conversion made it 18-20 and the Sonics were flying.

 

On the back of two penalties the home side set up the position for Anthony Seeto to dive over in the corner, with Holt’s touchline-hugging conversion making it 24-20. Minutes later, prop Sam Williamson caught a poor chip from Swann and raced 60 metres to score. Holt again added the extras to make it 30-20, and it looked as if the Sonics’ resistance would melt away.

 

But Bristol are made of sterner stuff these days, and soon they were back in the game following another short-range effort from the excellent Robertson. Swann converted, and minutes later Bristiol were level when Brooker forced his way in the corner following a sweeping right-to-left move.

 

Just when it looked as if the momentum had shifted back to the Sonics, Sheffield-Hallam restored their 10 point advantage. First, the impeccable Lee Sanders got his name on the scoresheet, Holt converting, before a break from former Sheffield Eagles first-teamer Corey Hanson created the space for Tom Ashton to grab his second. Crucially, Holt’s attempted conversion drifted wide, but at ten points up with less than 10 remaining, the home side were sitting pretty.

 

Again, back came the Sonics. With 8 minutes remaining hooker Matt Williams ducked under some weak tackles to force his way over close to the posts, Swann converting.

 

From the resulting kick-off Sheffield Hallam were able to put Bristol under pressure. Somehow, skipper Swann landed a beautiful 40-20 kick to win a vital scrum deep in Sheffield territory. With the clock ticking down, prop Liam Walker collected a short pass and stormed over to level the scores. Swann’s conversion gave Bristol the lead with little over four minutes remaining.

 

Sheffield-Hallam threw everything at the visitors for the remainder of the contest, but Bristol’s defence stood firm to record a memorable opening-day victory.

 

MATCH FACTS

Sheffield-Hallam Eagles            40

T: Bradley Tattersall, Tom Ashton 2, Donald Rodangarina, Anthony Seeto, Sam Williamson, Lee Sanders G: Tom Holt 6 (from 7)

Bristol Sonics                                    42

T: Marcus Brooker 4, Jake Robertson 2, Matt Williams, Liam Walker. G: Dom Swann 5 (from 8)

MOTM AWARDS

Sheffield-Hallam: Lee Sanders (prop forward)

Bristol: Jake Robertson (second row)

Bristol Sonics (v Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, 6/4/13): Max Davies, James Raymond, Mike Gaston, Marcus Brooker, Tom Verber, Dom Swann, Alex Potts, Wes Rodgers, Matt Williams,  Liam Walker, Jake Robertson, Joe McLean, Rob Verber. Subs (all used): Jack Spooner, Darren van Hoof, Curtis Asante, Joe Singleton.

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SONICS SET FOR SHEFFIELD SHOWDOWN

Bristol Sonics will be looking to make a flying start when they kick off their Conference League South campaign at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium on Saturday.

 

The Sonics, who have not played since tumbling out of the prestigious Challenge Cup competition at the hands of National Conference side Eccles in October, face a tough task against Sheffield Hallam Eagles, a new club set up by Sheffield Hallam University and 2012 Cooperative Championship winners Sheffield Eagles.

 

Both sides will be looking to make a winning start in Conference League South, the Rugby Football League’s new ‘tier 3’ division for leading amateur clubs based outside the club’s traditional Northern ‘heartlands’. The new league replaces Conference League Three, the division that the Sonics competed in last season.

 

On Saturday, both sides could field a number of players with semi-professional experience thanks to new rules that allow ‘dual registration’ of players between Championship, Championship One and Conference League South clubs.

 

The Sonics have taken advantage of this rule by joining forces with Cheltenham-based Championship One side University of Gloucestershire All Golds. Many of the latter’s playing squad have been ‘dual registered’ with the Sonics, allowing them to appear in Conference League South.

 

Sheffield Hallam Eagles are in a similar position thanks to their close ties to former Challenge Cup winners Sheffield Eagles. Many of the latter’s fringe players, a number of which study at Sheffield Hallam University, are in line to feature on Saturday. While most have little or no first team experience, they will provide a stern test for the Sonics.

 

Sonics Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley has announced a strong squad for the trip to the home of Sheffield Eagles and Olympic heptathlon star Jessica Ennis. He’s able to field Sonics’ All Golds signees Marcus Brooker and Mike Norman, and could hand debuts to Max Davies, Liam Walker, Jack Spooner and Darren van Hoof.

 

Fearnley isn’t too worried by his side’s lack of match practice. He said: “While there’s a chance that we’ll be pretty rusty and rough round the edges, the lads have been training really well and the addition of All Golds squad players will strengthen us,” he said. “I don’t expect us to hit top form straight away, but if we can do the basics well and build on the success we enjoyed in the second half of the 2012 season, we should be able to put in a decent performance.”

 

The Sonics struggled in the early part of 2012, and it took them nearly three months to adjust to the intensity of Tier 3 amateur Rugby League.  They finished the season in style, though, winning five of their last six games, including a famous victory over Champions elect – and now Championship One side – Hemel Stags.

 

Sonics captain Dom Swann believes that this experience will stand them in good stead this season: “It was a tough season last year, but by the end we really looked the part and were unlucky not to make the play-offs. We now know what it takes to compete at that level, and hopefully we’ll be on the ball from the word go. We think that Conference League South will be really tight this year, with all six teams being capable of taking points off one another. If we want to do well, we need to hit the ground running.”

 

Their opponents on Saturday, Sheffield Hallam Eagles, will be playing their first match together. However, with the majority of their players coming from the university’s first team and a smattering of future professional stars, they should be as strong a side as the Sonics will face this year.

 

Sheffield Hallam Eagles Head Coach Andrew Henderson – Scotland international and Sheffield Eagles’ first team hooker – is confident that the team can perform well this season. He said: “We see this team as an integral part of Sheffield Eagles’ player performance pathway. Competing in Conference League South will enable our performance players and Sheffield Hallam students to continue their Rugby League education in a closely fought competition. The club has come together very quickly so we’ll have to hit the ground running straight away. If we do that, I’m confident that we can have a tilt at winning the League.”

 

Sonics captain Dom Swann, who begins his 11th season with the club on Saturday, is wary of making similar predictions. “Of course every club in the League privately thinks that they have a chance of winning the title, because on paper all the teams look evenly matched,” he says. “Very few will come out and say ‘yes, we’re going to win this’, because that would be a foolish thing to do. There are six teams in the League, and six teams that could potentially win it – it’s going to be that tight. We’re confident that we’ll do quite well, but only if we play to our potential every week. There will be no ‘easy wins’ this season.”

 

Bristol Sonics face Sheffield Hallam Eagles at Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, on Saturday 6th April, kick-off 2.30pm. Entrance is £3 for adults, £2 for OAPS and £1 for under 16s and students (with a valid NUS card).

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SONICS SEEK MATCH DAY VOLUNTEERS

Bristol Sonics are looking for a number of volunteers to help with the smooth running of matchday management during the 2013 Conference League South season, which begins after Easter.

To ensure that our matches at Clifton RFC run smoothly, we’re looking for people willing to lend a hand with stewarding (collecting admission money and directing fans to the clubhouse and pitch), programme selling, administration, collecting match stats, taking photographs and capturing video, and other small tasks such as setting up the pitch and laying out players’ kit before the game.

None of these tasks is particularly arduous, and most can be completed within 30 minutes or less. In return for their help and commitment, volunteers will be given free entry to all our home games and complimentary copies of matchday programmes. There are also a number of other benefits, including discounts on club merchandise and travel to away matches.

Full training will be given, where needed, and volunteers will be supervised at all times. If you’re interested but cannot commit to the whole season, don’t worry – we’d love to have you involved.

The Sonics’ Conference League South season begins on 6th April, with the first home game at Clifton RFC taking place the following Saturday, 13th April.

For more information please email Nick Brook on nhbrook@me.com

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SONICS ANNOUNCE PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE

Bristol Sonics have announced their pre-season training schedule ahead of the summer 2013 Rugby League season.

Twice weekly training sessions will begin on Monday 25th February and continue through to the start of the Conference League South season on April 6.

All prospective players, whether regulars from previous seasons or newcomers who fancy giving Rugby League a go, are urged to attend training sessions as soon as possible.

Pre-season training begins on Monday 25 February, with team ‘fitness’ sessions hosted by acclaimed strength and conditioning coach Mark Hammond. His ‘Bodyblitz’ sessions take place on Monday nights at Winterbourne Academy, 7.45-9pm.

Squad sessions, including skills work and team moves, begin on Thursday 28th February at Clifton RFC, Henbury (near Cribbs Causeway), 6.45pm for a 7.00pm start.

Both fitness and ‘squad’ sessions will run every week until the start of the season. Squad sessions will take place twice weekly during the season at Clifton RFC. More details will be posted soon.

Ahead of the start of the season, Bristol Sonics will also be hosting a player and volunteer registration night on Friday, March 8 (venue TBA). This will offer a chance for club members, fans and players to come together, watch a televised Super League game (Warrington versus St Helens) and discuss the season ahead. Players can pay their membership fees on the night. We have a number of incentives for early payment.

All our welcome, whether new to Rugby League, a regular Sonics fan or an interested player who wants to give the 13-a-side code a go.

The Sonics have also announced their one and only pre-season friendly. They will play the University of the West of England on Sunday, March 24 (venue TBC).