Bristol Combination Season's Review
By John White (Bristol Evening Post & Sunday Independant sport)
Club of the Season - Avonmouth Old Boy's. Old Bristolians had a season to remember, winning promotion from Gloucester Premier at a canter, to take their place in Western Counties North for the first time. B's, who have also constructed a superb junior section at their Failand base, lifted the Charles Saunders Combination Vase, were runners-up to Gordano in the Renault Somerset Vase, and won the coveted 'Rugby World Team of the Season' title. Another success story was Broad Plain, who achieved back-to-back promotions - no mean feat, no matter what standard of rugby you play - well done. But Avonmouth's achievements this season, in my opinion, are without equal. After finishing as runners-up behind a very strong Brixham side in South West One West, 'mouth' travelled to take on Salisbury in their own back yard in the play-offs. A dogged performance earned them the spoils, after they battled to a 13-13 draw after extra-time. The Shirehampton-based side also lifted the Charles Saunders Combination Cup - their eighth triumph in the competition, which moves them closer to St Mary's record of 11 wins. But to reach the final, Avonmouth had to beat Dings Crusaders at Landseer Avenue in the semi-final, which they did.
Player of the Season - Ed Hack, Dings Crusaders. ' Hacky' is undoubtedly the most consistent players I've seen this season. The 31 year-old lock-forwards' game is built on sheer effort and commitment. The former Bath United man is the ultimate team player, who's always willing to do the un-glamorous graft, which allow others around him to shine.
Junior Player of the Season - Ryan Barrow, Nailsea & Backwell. I have been lucky enough to watch our city's most talented young players during the season. Thornbury scrum-half John Hudson, Clifton full-back Max Nethercott, Frampton Cotterell fly-half Lewis Greaves-Lugo, Cleve centre Tom Cox, St Mary's flanker Jake Polledri and Keynsham scrum-half Andy Uren, to name but a few. But Ravens Under-14s hooker Ryan 'Rhino' Barrow, really made me sit up and take notice. To get an idea of this lads playing style, think Bull in a china shop! Definitely one to look out for in the future.
Person making the greatest contribution to Combination Rugby - Pete Gervais. Ian Reed and Nigel Smith (Cup Committee), referee Chris Brockett and colts league administrator Diane Cann were all in the running. Cherry Hall has again proved to be almost indispensible, and continues to work tirelessly for the Combination cause. But this season, Ashley Down chairman Pete Gervais has excelled. Pete helped out with the Under-16s, Under-20s and the senior Combination sides, and also raised a considerable sum of money, through sponsorship, to help provide new playing kit for both the Under-16s and Under-20 age-grades.
Coach of the Season - Gary Beer, Chipping Sodbury. Beer beats of competition from Avonmouth's Wayne Hone, Rich Berry and Shane Clarridge of Old Bristolians, and Broad Plain's Bob Hesford. What this man did for his club was nothing short of miraculous, especially when you consider the limited resources available to him at the Ridings. The club stalwart, who tragically died while on holiday in Tenerife in April aged 54, led Sodbury to the Gloucester Two title, winning all but one of their 20-league fixtures.
This season's Dream Team has been drawn from 11 Combination clubs, with Avonmouth filling six of the 22 places in the squad. Dings are close behind with five representative, while Old Bristolians and two Old Reds fill two places each. As usual, I have only selected players that I've seen in action, and I've shuffle the team around to fit all the stars in.
Team of the season - Scoop's Troops: 15 Andy Taylor (Avonmouth),14 Sam Smee (Clifton), 13 Craig Owen (Old Reds), 12 Sam Cox (Dings), 11 Charlie Reynolds (Avonmouth),10 Jack Price (Old Bristolians), 9 Connor Power (Avonmouth) 1 David Hilton, 2 Dave Wheeler, 3 Chas Meddick, 4 Ed Hack (Dings), 5 Mike Barton (Old Bristolians), 6 Anthony Davies (Old Reds), 7 Sam Steer (Barton Hill), 8 Archie Woodland (Southmead). Replacements: Lee Ralf (Chipping Sodbury), Ayden Sloman, Harry Hone (Avonmouth), Harry Goodfield (Cleve), Jak Evans (Thornbury), Matt Belbin (Avonmouth) and Jack Nowell (Broad Plain)