post

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.

post

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).