South West 1 West
Bridgwater & Albion 20, Thornbury 33

THIS was very much a game of two halves, as Thornbury ran in four tries in the first half and Bridgwater & Albion tried to claw their way back in the second, writes Richard Walsh.

At the start of the game – the first of the 2019/20 season – George Sluman led the team out onto the field to mark his 75th senior appearance for Bridgwater.

The hosts looked sharp from the off and could so easily have taken the lead early on, but the final pass was dropped.

On 12 minutes the hosts were deep in Thornbury territory and looked to be heading for a try, but instead the ball found its way to an opposition hand, resulting in the first score of the game as Billy Cantim went over and Bob Adams converted.

Just after 20 minutes Bridgwater reduced the arrears thanks to a Stuart Heal penalty.

Thornbury then scored three tries converted tries in the space of seven minutes, all resulting from mistakes by the home side.

Alfie Richards went over in the 27th minute, following an interception, then five minutes later Thornbury stole the ball and Jack Evans scored a try on the left, and finally on 34 minutes Richards scored his second try, following another error by the hosts.

Adams converted all three to make it 28-3, then on 38 minutes the game was halted following an altercation involving the players of both sides, as a result of which Thornbury’s Jak Evans and Albion’s Wayne Sprangle were shown yellow cards.

Just before half-time Heal kicked his second penalty, and the players went in for the interval with Thornbury 28-6 up.

Bridgwater looked a very different side when they reappeared and produced the perfect riposte seven minutes after the re-start when Dom Thorne scored a try on the left, Heal converting.

The hosts maintained the pressure and their persistence was rewarded when with less than 10 minutes remaining James Collings found himself in space and went over to score a try just to the right of the posts; again Heal converted, making the score 28-20.

The home side kept on pressing for another try but Thornbury defended well, kept their heads and cleared their lines.

In the dying minutes of this fast-paced match, Thornbury sealed the win when Sam Evans crashed over in the right-hand corner, and the game ended 33-20.

Bridgwater & Albion: Lewis Phillips, Shaun Mahoney, Sam Adcock, Ethan Trebble-Westlake, Dan Kemmish, Ollie Steward, Harvey Digby, Wayne Sprangle, Tom Fournier d’Able, Stuart Heal (c), Dom Thorne, Jay Owens, Will Monro, Roger Drabble, James Collings. Replacements (all used): Matt Ranson, George Sluman, Gerryn Basson.

E18gteen Gin man of the match: Tom Fournier d’Able

Albion director of rugby Geoff Sluman admitted his side had not played their best in the 33-20 loss to Thornbury.

He said: “We were disappointed with the result, not because of the scoreline, which, if we are honest, was a fair reflection, but I think disappointed because we didn’t do our best.

“We know we can play better. We got off to a slow start and didn’t really change gears until after half-time.

“Our handling was poor at times and, sometimes, decision-making suspect to say the least.

“Too often, Thornbury benefited from our mistakes.”

However, there were aspects of the game that Sluman was happy about.

“It was not all bad; the response after half-time was encouraging,” he said.

“The workrate and commitment from the players in the second half was strong, and some of the patterns of play we had been training were successfully deployed.”

Looking ahead, Sluman said: “We have plenty to work on this week, so training will be busy as we prepare for Saturday’s match at home to Chew Valley, who beat St Ives 89-14 at the weekend.

“I think this will be the first time the two clubs will play each other in the league, so we know very little about them, but they can clearly score a lot of points.

“Kick-off against Chew Valley is at 3pm; please come and support us.”

Before then, the Friends of Bridgwater & Albion Rugby Club will hold their AGM in the clubhouse on Thursday evening, starting at 7.30pm.

New members are welcome to go along and see what the Friends are all about and how they support the club.