Would-be Rugby League fans are being treated to a feast of Rugby League in Bristol this weekend, as the countdown to the city’s involvement in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup intensifies.
Fans keen to get a taste of League before the city hosts a World Cup game between USA and the Cook Islands in October can take in no less than FOUR matches in Bristol this weekend, with games spread over Saturday and Sunday.
Both Bristol Sonics’ adult sides will be in action on Saturday at Clifton RFC, Henbury, with the action starting at 1pm as the club’s second team aims to boost their West of England League play-off hopes with a win over local rivals Somerset Vikings.
Then, from 2.30pm, the Sonics take on fellow Conference League South title rivals Sheffield Hallam Eagles in a must-win shoot-out for top spot.
The Sonics currently sit top of the Conference League South table, one point ahead of pre-season favourites Sheffield Hallam Eagles, a club set up by Sheffield Hallam Eagles and 2012 Kingstone Press Championship winners Sheffield Eagles, and featuring many players from the latter’s “performance pathway”.
When the two sides met on the opening day of the season at Don Valley Stadium, home of the Eagles’ professional side and training base for London 2012 Gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill, it was the Sonics who prevailed in a high scoring thriller. Yet when the two sides last clashed, at Dings in early June, it was Sheffield who won, battering the home side in another entertaining contest.
The two could yet meet in the end-of-season Grand Final at Hemel Stags’ Pennine Way ground in September, but neither side are looking that far ahead. With top spot at stake, both teams will be focused on getting a win on Saturday.
Sonics coach Aran Simm, who will be coaching both sides on Saturday due to the absence of Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley, said: “We’ve got a chance to do something very special on Saturday, but it will be incredibly difficult. Sheffield are a top side full of talented young players, some of whom are pressing for selection to the Eagles’ Championship side, which shows their quality. If we win it would be a momentous result. We’ve already beaten them once this season, so we know it can be done. Whatever happens, it should be a superb, high quality, highly intense game of Rugby League.”
Simm will have to make do without a string of Sonics’ first team regulars, including captain Dom Swann, prop Daniel Brooker and loose forward Rob Verber. He can welcome back hooker Harry Marson, and hopes to have experienced forward Wes Rodgers available after a short injury lay-off.
Bristol Sonics’ Chairman Phil Cole is excited by the prospect of Saturday’s double-header at Clifton. He said: “This is the first, and possibly only, time this season both adult teams will be at home on the same afternoon. With both games meaning a lot to the teams’ league position, we’d love to get a big crowd to support the lads. They’ve been doing great things on the pitch for a while now, so it would be great for the Bristol public to get behind them. Even if you’ve never been to watch a Rugby League match before, we can guarantee you’ll be entertained.”
Entrance to Clifton on Saturday is £3, including complimentary, full colour matchday programme.
The Rugby League action continues on Sunday, as the Sonics’ juniors face their counterparts from Old Patesians, Cheltenham, at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze (10.30am start, free entry). The Sonics under 14 and under 16 teams will both be in action, for only their second outing of the season, following games against Aber Valley in Wales last month.