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.