NORTH BRISTOL could have snatched the win against Wells if they had the help of a Television Match Official.
With the title challengers trailing 12-7 late on, Ross Wilson had what he thought to be a perfectly good try disallowed before the hosts wrapped up the win.
The pitch did not have any standing water but it played like a bog. Both sides tried to use the ball rather than tucking it underneath shirts but the heavy going sapped the strength of all 36 players on show.
Wells had the best start to the game as their fly half intercepted just inside North’s twenty-two and touched down under the posts. With the conversion they led 7-0 after just two minutes.
North Bristol began to exert some pressure and some great handling and phase play saw Dan Snow go close but the home defence held firm. After 22 minutes Snow missed a penalty as North continued to look for a breakthrough and Antony Jelf, playing his 200th game for the club, almost capitalised on a great up-and-under, but again Wells defended well.
After 34 minutes Wells missed a penalty of their own but just one minute later they capitalised on some poor North tackling to score a try and led 12-0 at the break.
The game was certainly still alive for North with the slope advantage and Wells struggled to get into North Bristol’s half. From an attempted break out on half way Jonny Gait snapped up a loose Wells pass and he sprinted in to score beneath the posts. Snow converted and it was 12-7.
As the game entered the final ten minutes North looked favourites to score. A powerful break and charge from the outstanding Nigel Smith splintered the home defence but his inside pass to Steve Chappell was not held by the charging replacement prop. Still North pressured and from a number of pick and drives near the Wells line it only seemed like a matter of time that the defence, which had been outstanding all day, would creak. Wilson drove over and appeared to ground the ball before streetwise Wells managed to get underneath it and the chance was gone.
Wells were able to clear their lines and with North penalised, desperate to get the ball, Wells were able to slot the bonus-point denying kick to take the keenly contested League tie.
North Bristol scorers: Tries – Jonny Gait; Conversions – Dan Snow.
GRFU South One: North Bristol 2nds 60 Cleve 3rds 7
PLUCKY, unlucky and under-strength Cleve had to endure a purple patch of play from North Bristol that surpasses anything they had offered in the rest of the season so far.
Minutes after the start a powerful burst up the middle from Andre Samura after a lineout near halfway was supported by the first of many devastating runs by Rob Collins, who took the touchdown which Darren Gillespie converted. It was Collins again who broke through a tackle 35 metres out to run in and give North a 12-0 lead.
A controlled driven Collins lineout went close from where burly lock Max Sheppard barged through to score. An impressive 45-metre run from livewire prop Tom Drury brought him a super try to take North’s score to 22-0.
From Samura’s powerful drive Sheppard took the try which Gillespie converted to make it 29-0. A great touchline combination from Drury and Gillespie put Matt Bowden over in the corner for a 34-0 half time lead.
The scoring was re-opened by a 20 metre driven scrum which delivered a penalty try on the line. Carl Smith converted with a drop goal. Prop Martin Green’s return from injury was rewarded with a 20-centimetre crash over try to take North 48-0 up. It was Green’s first try since 2008.
While North were still congratulating themselves Cleve caught them napping with a try that was converted.
North replied after a Samura strike against the head followed by another driven scrum which gave Alex Featherstone his customary score, converted by Smith. A quickly taken penalty gave centre Craig Perrett a chance which he finished well after a great side step to round off the scoring.
North Bristol scorers: Tries – Rob Collins (2), Max Sheppard (2), Matt Bowden, Tom Drury, Alex Featherstone, Martin Green, Craig Perrett, Penalty Try; Conversions – Carl Smith (3), Darren Gillespie (2).
South Three: North Bristol 3rds 30 Whitehall 4ths 10
THE absence of posts at either end gave an eerie feeling to the match and focussed play entirely on a running game as tries were the only form of scoring.
That North Bristol adapted better to this target was undoubtedly the reason for them eventually winning the game. Yet Whitehall scored first with some strong driving play and followed up with another much the same.
There was little kicking throughout as possession was everything. However, following a chip and chase from North’s Mike Chapman, spritely full back Matt Lang latched on to the ball to dart 25 metres to score.
Good linking and fine handling allowed North centre Art Simon to race 20 metres to the try line to level things at 10-10. North’s excellent support play eventually found Dan Harris in possession before he too ran in from twenty-five metres to score giving North a 15-10 lead at the interval.
Peter Swallow’s fine break took him across the try line but in the confusion of no posts he lost his bearings and passed to a grateful Lang, who made the touchdown.
Simon took his second try by crashing through midfield and Swallow also managed a final try to give North a deserved victory.
North Bristol scorers: Tries – Matt Lang (2), Art Simon (2), Dan Harris, Peter Swallow.