Western Counties North
Midsomer Norton 11 North Bristol 12
NORTH BRISTOL celebrated their second away win on the bounce by the narrowest of margins at Midsomer Norton.
Their last league Match at Midsomer Norton was almost 20 years ago when in October 1994 they triumphed 16-21 with Derek Miles and Nick Tatum claiming the tries.
The latest game was played in a strong gale force wind, blowing across the pitch towards the clubhouse, which made kicking for both sides almost impossible.
North were quickest out of the traps and scored in the first ten minutes. A good lineout take from Joe Page saw the pack rumble towards the line where hooker Tony Booth finished what he started, with his first try for the club in League rugby.
Dan Snow slotted a superb touchline conversion despite the wind and North had the early 7-0 lead.
Play was always going to be scrappy due to the conditions and Norton came back with two penalty kicks of their own to reduce the arrears to 6-7 at the break. North’s strong runners Ross Wilson, Max Sheppard and Alex Featherstone carried well but chances were few and far between and crucial final passes went to ground.
With the second half underway, North just had the elements in their favour.
From a home lineout ten metres out, good pressure from Page saw lively scrum half Phil Sterry grab the loose ball to claim a crucial try.
Snow’s conversion was impossible from the touchline, this time due to the gale, but it was 6-12 after 45 minutes.
North Bristol knew they had to keep Norton penned back into their 22 and Sterry and Snow were on hand with some fine kicks to touch.
However, after 50minutes the heavens opened and both teams and spectators were lashed by the torrential rain which accompanied the strengthening gale. Not only did this make playing the game even harder but the pitch began to deteriorate and it became a slug fest in the mud.
North Bristol were forced into a re-shuffle when prop Alex Flannigan, who dominated the scrum, was forced off with a knee injury.
That allowed Steve Chappell on to the pitch where the veteran front-rower made his 100th League appearance for the club.
The home side enjoyed the lion's share of possession and North spent the final 20 minutes defending.
Here Wilson and skipper Chris Underwood stood out, making numerous tackles around the fringes.
In the final five minutes Norton were camped in North’s 22, aided by seven consecutive penalties against them and a yellow card given to centre Jim Hitchman. Norton seemed certain to score and they did, but crucially it was ten metres in from touch.
With the conversion the final play of the game North Bristol held their breath as the kick was on target but could not beat the wind to the cross bar.
North Bristol scorers: Tries - Tony Booth, Phil Sterry; Conversions - Dan Snow.