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UNDERBANK TO TEST SONICS CREDENTIALS

Bristol Sonics’ difficult Conference League 3 season could get even tougher on Saturday (30 June), when Rugby League Conference National champions Huddersfield-Underbank Rangers visit Aretians (2.30pm kick-off, free entry). Fans will also get a chance to see the results of the Sonics’ junior development as the Under 16’s take on Neath Port Talbot Steelers in a curtain-raiser game, kick-off 1pm. The Sonics have yet to win a game this season after moving up to the national leagues, and face a gigantic task to get anything out of their game against the Conference League 3 title favourites.Bristol were given a rude awakening to the demands of Conference League 3 when they faced the Holmfirth-based side back in May, losing 62-0 to the team many believe are odds-on to win the competition.Although the Sonics have improved considerably since then, losing a number of close matches, they face an uphill struggle to even get a bonus point against the Yorkshire side, one of the oldest amateur Rugby League clubs in the world.Sonics captain Dom Swann understands the task awaiting his side on Saturday: “To even get close, we’ll have to put in the best defensive performance the club has ever produced. When we played them at their place they made mincemeat of us. They have so much experience playing at this level and can reproduce a high level of performance every week. They’re very organized, strong in attack and concede very few points. If we don’t tackle hard and keep our line tight, we’ll get hammered. It’s a tough ask.”But Swann also thinks there is grounds for optimism. “When we played them at their place we weren’t at our strongest in terms of personnel, and we were just getting used to the League. Now we’ve had nine games and we’re used to the physical demands of the league. We’re getting better every week. We’ve not yet put in the sort of performance we can be happy with. If we get close to that on Saturday we’ll cause them problems. If we do that, and they have an off day, who knows what might happen.”While the Sonics’ first team take on Huddersfield-Underbank, Bristol Sonics A – the club’s second team – will be trying to enhance their title credentials at Oxford Cavaliers. The Sonics’ seconds sit second in the table, tied on points with leaders Somerset Vikings but with an inferior goal difference. A win against the dangerous Cavaliers could put the Sonics clear at the top of the West of England Division with two games remaining.Bristol beat Oxford when the two sides last met, but it was a close run thing. The Sonics will have to be at their best to win on Saturday.Bristol Sonics A player/coach Aran Simm said: “We’re expecting a very difficult game against Oxford on Saturday. They’ve generally been very strong at home and a lot weaker away. Since we’re playing them at their place, we could be in for a very tough afternoon. We’re definitely good enough to win well, and all the lads are really up for the game. We really want to win this league.”

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