Western Counties North: North Bristol 32 Cirencester 23
4:53pm Wednesday 4th April 2012 in Thornbury Sport
NORTH Bristol gained a well-earned bonus point win against a Cirencester side full of running.
Despite missing first choice half-backs Alex Cue and Martin Lambourne, their replacements Phil Sterry and Ashley Milburn had super games.
North Bristol treated their supporters to a bright start and despite an early Dan Snow penalty miss they opened the scoring soon afterwards.
Following good sustained phase play, the ball was recycled well and moved to the right where centre Jonny Gait crashed over to score.
Snow converted and North led 7-0 after eight minutes.
Cirencester missed a penalty on 11 minutes but struck a drop goal two minutes later to open their account at 7-3.
The visitors capitalised on a loose pass that saw them score a converted try for a 10-7 lead after 23 minutes.
A good lineout by North saw the ball move along the line where Gait stepped inside his man to score again – his tenth try of the season – and when Snow slotted the extras North went into the break 14-10 ahead.
From a driven five-metre scrum Cirencester kicked the ball out from under No 8 Nigel Smith’s feet to deny the try and the perpetrator was yellow carded.
Smith was not to be denied, however, as from the resulting scrum he powered over to score and put North Bristol 19-10 ahead.
An awful mess-up by North at the next kick-off saw Cirencester score a converted try to get back in the game at 19-17.
They took the lead too after 53 minutes with a penalty.
After 65 minutes great handling from Ross Wilson, Milburn and Richard Mortimer saw Snow run into space. His neat inside pass to Carl Smith saw the in-form full back scorch untouched to the line for a fine score which took North back into the lead at 24-20.
Cirencester hit back with a penalty to trail by one pointy.
Two minutes into injury time North sealed the win. Good handling from Wilson and Mortimer again saw the hooker just short but his offload found replacement winger Jim Hitchman, who scored in the corner.
A successful Snow penalty denied Cirencester a losing bonus point.
North Bristol scorers: Tries - Jonny Gait (2), Jim Hitchman, Carl Smith, Nigel Smith; Conversions - Dan Snow (2); Penalties - Dan Snow.
Friendly North Bristol 2nds 28 Thornbury 2nds 5
A much-changed North Bristol side took a while to settle, though it was apparent from the outset that they had players of pace and determination that could influence the outcome.
Centre Richard Foale impressed early on, though he had fewer chances as the game progressed.
Scrum-half Alex Hayle’s service was superb and his pace on and off the ball was a valuable asset.
James Reed’s leg injury after 13 minutes brought Scott Flannigan into the fray to further emphasise North’s growing supremacy at scrummage.
But it was a counter attack, one of many from North that excited, which produced a try for in-form skipper Max Sheppard, with rookie Hayle converting.
A great break from livewire Hayle left impressive flanker Matt Bowden to crash over for a try that Hayle converted.
A typical brutal ram-raid from action-man Dan Purdy found Foale in support to score and subsequently for Hayle to convert.
Purdy’s constant good support was rewarded when he scored an excellent try, finishing off some astonishingly exciting elusive and mazy running from fullback Darren Gillespie.
Hayle’s unerring boot took North 28-0 ahead.
Thorns’ persistence was rewarded with an unconverted try for Rich Bennett.
North Bristol scorers: Tries - Matt Bowden, Richard Foale, Dan Purdy, Max Sheppard; Conversions - Alex Hayle (4).
North Bristol 3rds 3 Clifton 4ths 41
This was always going to be a tough game for North Bristol’s third string.
But their young players stuck at the task and their effort lasted the full 80 minutes.
Clifton raced out of the blocks with two early tries.
North hit back after Clifton were penalised and Dan Harris stepped up to nail the penalty to bring North back at 3-10.
The experienced Clifton side were starting to gain the upper hand and their third try soon followed despite some North pressure.
Clifton notched their fourth try of the half as North trailed 24-3 at the break.
Scott Flannigan had to leave the field at half-time to play for the second team on the next pitch which saw Chris Ball move to prop and the scrums became uncontested.
Good work from Jonny Lyons, Simon Nelmes and Jason Smith kept Clifton honest but the visitors scored three more tries before the end of the game.
North had their best chance to score when man-of-the-match Peter Swallow chipped ahead and almost collected the bouncing ball to score but good cover defence from Clifton kept him out.
North Bristol scorer: Penalty – Dan Harris.