South West 1 (W)

Okehampton 18, Bridgwater & Albion 0

THIS was a match between two sides who defended stoutly and was won in the end by table-toppers Okehampton, leaving a slightly disappointed Bridgwater and Albion to travel back to Somerset empty handed, writes Richard Walsh.

For the visitors, Gavin Knight was making his 75th first team appearance an achievement that will see him awarded his BARFC badge.

The first 15 minutes were even and both Rob Gurnett and Ethan Trebble-Westlake made good breaks, but to no avail.

In the 22nd minute, Okehampton opened their account when, following a concentrated attack, second row forward Brad Curtis went over in the corner for an unconverted try.

The hosts continued to exert pressure on the Albion line but the defence held firm and there was no way through.

Okehampton were later awarded a penalty which full back Richie Friend slotted home to make the score 8-0 at the interval.

The visitors started the second half strongly and both Will Monro and George Sluman enjoyed good breaks, but on neither occasion did the attack result in points.

Okehampton then countered well and were awarded a penalty which Friend kicked to make the score 11-0

Bridgwater responded with a number of attacking moves, through Lewis Phillips, Gurnett and Sluman but once again they were all thwarted.

On the hour, player-coach Wayne Sprangle and the ever dangerous Monro got to the home side's 10 metre line but were again held up.

With five minutes remaining, Okehampton produced an attacking move that resulted in number eight Tom McGrattan scoring a try that Friend converted.

In the last few minutes Albion went close through Monro but he was held up yet again and in the end it was Okehampton who triumphed 18-0.

Bridgwater and Albion: Richard Bright, Kyran Devitt, Rob Gurnett, James Collings, Will Monro, Stuart Heal (capt), Tom Fournier, Ethan Trebble-Westlake, George Sluman, Wayne Sprangle, Dan Kemmish, George Musgrave, Lewis Phillips, Gavin Knight, Craig Blyde.Replacements ( all used)- Garryn Basson, Matt Ranson, Karolis Urbonas.

Reflecting on the match, director of rugby Geoff Sluman said: “We put in a good performance but didn’t get any reward, however Okehampton are not the league leaders and unbeaten at home all season for no reason.

"The difference was probably just a couple of swings in play.

“Okehampton took advantage of each of their two try scoring opportunities and scored tries from each.

"We also had two try scoring opportunities but we were held up over the try line for one and we knocked the ball on for the other so we didn’t convert our opportunities.

“It was a very close game which the score line does not really reflect.

"Late in the game we had opportunities to slot over a couple of penalties just to put a score on the board. That wouldn’t have got us near getting any bonus points so we went for the tries but sadly it just didn’t come off.”

Sluman went on: “The positives are, we played the league leaders, a team that will be playing in a higher league next season, and gave them a good contest. We were definitely “in the game” and somewhat unfortunate to come away with the result we did.

“We have definitely improved since our match against Okehampton back in November when we lost 16-61 at home.

"There are no miracle cures or magic tricks and the improvements are down to everyone’s hard work and commitment - we are still heading in the right direction. We remain in fourth position in the league.”

The first XV may have lost, but Sluman is delighted with the way that the second XV are playing this season.

“Our second team continue their good run, winning their tenth game in a row by beating Old Sullians in Tribute Somerset One by 39-13.

"The Second XV are in third place in the league but the teams around them have games in hand so I think they will have a relative fourth place league position too.”

This coming weekend Albion are at home to St Ives with the match kicking off at 3pm, whilst the Second XV are without a match.

“We lost away to St Ives back in the first week of December, but we have improved so it should be a good game.

"They were a big physical group of forwards with quick backs, but we understand what we have to do and the motivation is definitely still within the squad and, if anything, growing stronger.”