South West 1 West
Newton Abbot 19, Bridgwater & Albion 43

BRIDGWATER & Albion bounced back to winning ways on Saturday, when they proved too strong for bottom side Newton Abbot, writes Richard Walsh.

After a three defeats in a row, followed by a three-week break from action, this was Albion’s first victory since January 16 - a result that sees them leapfrog local rivals North Petherton in the league table.

The visitors attacked from the start, and in the sixth minute Wayne Sprangle got hold of the ball on the home 22 and found Oskar White, who in turn passed to Will Monro, who ran in for a try which Stuart Heal converted.

After 20 minutes Newton Abbot were reduced to 14 men when they had a player yellow carded, and from the resultant penalty Lewis Phillips was bundled over for a try which Heal added the extras to.

Despite being a man down, the hosts responded quickly when winger Gill went over for an unconverted try.

Albion then lost Roger Drabble to injury, to be replaced by Shaun Mahoney, and Newton Abbot closed the gap to two points when fly-half Monnington scored a try which Sweeney converted.

But on the stroke of half-time Monro jinked his way over to score, and Heal’s conversion made it 21-12 at the interval.

After the break the hosts gave up a few penalties as the Bridgwater pressure started to tell, and on 53 minutes Heal slotted one over to extend his side’s lead.

From the restart Mahoney burst through the middle before offloading to George Sluman, who scored a try which Heal converted.

White then made a great run out of defence into the home 22, after which Sprangle and Monro combined well before Mahoney crashed over for a try which Heal again converted.

Newton Abbot continued to look to create opportunities, and when Albion tried to chip the ball out of defence it was seized on by Monnington, who scored an unconverted try.

The last word belonged to the visitors, though, as Mahoney burst through before passing to Monro, who went over for his hat-trick try, which Heal converted to make the final score 43-19.

Bridgwater & Albion: Oskar White, Will Monro, Ryan Barnett, Jay Owens, Roger Drabble, Stuart Heal, Tom Fournier, Wayne Sprangle, George Sluman, Tom Hopkins, Dan Kemmish, George Musgrave, Tim Blades, Gavin Knight, Lewis Phillips. Replacements (all used): Matt Ranson, Karolis Urbonis, Shaun Mahoney.

Albion director of rugby Geoff Sluman said afterwards: “It was nice to actually get back to playing some rugby after recent weeks.

“It is appreciated that this is the wettest February and winter on record, but I think that demonstrates some of the problems with the suggestions of a winter break in the season.

“If we had had a winter break just before the adverse weather, we would not have played rugby for a long time.

“All clubs are in the same situation and everyone we have met has shown some flexibility and determination to get games played.”

Sluman continued: “On the pitch we did well. Not only had we not played, but also our training sessions have been cancelled due to the weather, so the squad did very well to get back into things so quickly.

“We talked before the game about going back to basics as it is a default position, but it was clear throughout the warm-up that the squad was ready and capable of more - it is a credit to our players’ attitudes that they carried it off.

“The scoreline does not flatter us at all. Newton Abbot were a capable and determined side.

“Winning against us would have left them a hope of survival in the league, whereas a defeat was going to make that just about impossible, so they were playing like it really mattered to them.

“I feel for them because they are a good club.”

The head of rugby also praised the 2nd XV, saying: “Our second team returned to playing too and had not played since late January, so the 39-12 victory over Midsomer Norton 2nds was also very pleasing.

“I have had reports of many of those players putting in very good performances so, all in all, it was a satisfying weekend for us.

“We are not yet sure if our second team will be playing at home on Friday evening in a Somerset 1 match against Cheddar - it is likely that they will be, and if so kick-off will be 7.30pm.

“Our 1st XV have a rearranged fixture at home to Newent and the kick off will be at 3pm.”