BRISTOL SONICS produced a powerful performance to brush aside Telford Raiders 58-6 and secure top spot in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference Midlands West Qualifying group.Playing their first fixture for a fortnight, the Sonics produced powerful running, incisive passing and rock-solid tackling to overwhelm their hosts in a one-sided contest at Telford Hornets RFC.Despite a dozy start in which they were forced to drop out from under their own posts after allowing Telford’s long kick-off to roll dead, it wasn’t long before Bristol took command of the contest. Sonics’ second-rower Jack Gibson crossed the whitewash after eight minutes, only to lose the ball in the act of scoring.It proved to be a brief reprieve for the home side, who quickly coughed up possession and allowed Sonics’ hooker Harry Marson to stroll over from close range. Skipper Dom Swann added the first of nine successful conversions to give Bristol a deserved 6-0 lead.The Sonics surged further ahead three minutes later, when stand-in scrum half Joel Keen finished off a break from Jack Gibson. The strong running second-rower received an inch-perfect pass from skipper Swann, surged 40 metres down the left flank and found Keen in support. He did the rest, diving over underneath the posts.With hooker Marson and centre Ed Tofts leading the tackle count, Bristol continued to dominate Telford in defence and pose many problems to the Raiders in attack. On 23 minutes Bristol extended their lead further, thanks to great work from Swann and winger Mike Norman. Swann hoisted a high crossfield kick from left to right, which was flicked back inside by the diminutive flier. Centre Elliot Nightingale scooped up the ball and trotted over for a try in the corner which Swann impressively converted.Three minutes later, the Sonics extended their lead further thanks to a simple try from second-rower Peter Butcher. Telford had been on the attack in their own 20 metre area, but an error from experienced prop Matt Evans allowed Bristol another chance to attack. The ball was quickly moved to Butcher, who rolled over in the tackle and stretched out to touch down.With six minutes to go until half time Sonics winger Mike Norman grabbed a try of his own from close range, bumping off two tacklers to crash over, before full back Dan Evans brought an excellent first 40 to a close with a try wide on the left after a smart right-to-left hands move.The Sonics started the second half as well as they’d finished the first, with marauding prop forward Wes Rodgers powering his way over the try line just 30 seconds after the restart.Bristol had two tries chalked off for forward passes in the following 15 minutes, before Peter Butcher grabbed his second of the afternoon after another quick left-to-right passing move.It marked the beginning of a poor period for the Sonics. Having passed a half-century of points, Bristol’s intensity dropped markedly and errors began to creep into their previously impeccable play.An error from winger Ben Pullen from a high Telford kick ended with a Raiders attacker being hauled down inches from the try line. Tackler Joel Keen was adjudged to have taken too long to release the attacking player, and was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes by referee Peter Parker.Telford used the ball smartly in the following 10 minutes, but superb defence from title-chasing Bristol kept them at bay.Following Keen’s return the Sonics seem to get a second wind, and it wasn’t long before substitute centre Dan Wegryzn powered his way over on the left. Five minutes later Dan Evans grabbed his second try of the afternoon following another break from second-rower Jack Gibson.Telford refused to buckle though and ended the game the stronger of the two sides, finally breaching Bristol’s previously impeccable defence with six minutes remaining. It was John Phelps who got the score following a neat offload from Matt Evans, Liam Evans converting.While it gave the home fans something to cheer and was nothing less than deserved, it was scant consolation for the battered and bruised home side.At the final whistle, Bristol Sonics’ Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley heaped praise on his players: ‘For 65 minutes that was an excellent performance. While I was looking for an 80-minute performance, I’m satisfied that we’re slowly getting better week on week. We lost our intensity and looked tired in the closing stages, and that’s something we’ll have to work on, but overall I was very pleased.’Fearnley had special praise for veteran centre Ed Tofts and young hooker Harry Marson, who ended the game with a whopping 36 and 37 tackles respectively. Fearnley said: ‘Harry and Ed worked tirelessly today and showed the other guys what we’re looking for. If we’re going to win this competition we need to be strong in defence. We’ll always score tries because we’ve got some very exciting players, but they only get the space to do their thing if we tackle the opposition out of the game. For 75 minutes we did that, and it was thanks to the effort of players like Harry and Ed.’Next Saturday Bristol Sonics complete their Cooperative Rugby League Conference West Midlands Qualifying campaign with a trip to bottom side Leamington Royals. The week after, they travel to bitter title rivals Northampton Demons in the first round of the Midlands Premier play-offs.Meanwhile, Bristol Sonics A consolidated third place in the Cooperative Rugby League Conference West of England division with an awarded 24-0 win over Oxford Cavaliers. The men from Oxfordshire travelled to Bristol with just four players, and were loaned a number of Sonics’ second-teamers to get a game on. The hastily arranged friendly ended 80-14 to Bristol Sonics A.

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