Sodbury Outmuscled in Opener
Sodbury fall just short in first game of new league
1st Sep 2018
Midsomer Norton 1st XV – 25
Chipping Sodbury 1st XV – 17
The men of Chipping Sodbury have been working hard in preparation for this game, their
first outing at the highest level the club has ever attained. There were debuts from new
recruit Otto Avent and late bloomer Martin O’Regan, who had the added bonus of being
watched by Phil Player, his mate from work.
The opening exchanges were robust and fairly even, as both packs examined each other.
The first scrum surprised the hosts: Sodbury actually blasted them off the ball, allowing
Dan Bradley to kick deep into their 22. At the lineout – just 10m from Norton’s tryline – the
chiselled physique of Avent was thrust skyward to claim the ball. O’Regan led the clearout
while Lee Ralph received the ball and thundered toward the tryline. After the ruck, all it
took was two quick passes to the left; once the ball was in the hands of Jon Cook, the try
was never in doubt. Cook converted his own try in dramatic fashion when the ball struck
the left-hand post first before spinning through.
Sodbury then invited pressure on themselves with a string of penalties, which gave Norton
easy access to their 22. They were then forced into 10 minutes of toiling defence and
repelled repeated forward drives from a well-drilled Norton pack. The hosts had their first
try from a scrum in the far right corner: they dipped and drove over but couldn’t convert.
The next 10 minutes were played between the 22’s until Norton actually broke into
Sodbury’s 22. O’Regan and Avent were tackling well and were joined in the trenches by
wrecking ball George Barnes. Barnes has had a long injury lay-off and many may have
forgotten about him, but they would have been as foolish as the people who forgot about
Dre. The Sods struggled to get out of their own half due to continued infringements; Norton
eventually took a slender lead when they kicked one of these penalties at goal.
Sodbury used their backs at every opportunity, with another man on debut making
significant inroads. Dan Cole, unlike his Leicester namesake, is neither one-paced or red in
the face and used his tricky side-step to great effect.
The Sods gave away their eighth penalty on halfway as the first period drew to a close.
Norton kicked for a lineout 15m out. Conceding the ninth penalty at the lineout made it
even easier for Norton to score, giving them a half-time lead of 15-7.
The second half began with the same cut-and-thrust from Sodbury, they forced a turnover
and Norton gave away a penalty. Bradley booted the ball for a lineout on Norton’s 10m line.
With the ball secure, the Sods swept through six phases until they lost the ball. Norton
cleared hurriedly from the resulting 5m scrum as Sodbury enjoyed driving them back.
More spectacular lineout work gave the visitors quick ball in Norton’s half – they
pummelled the hosts through 10 phases, with Matt Cook, Cole, and Jon Cook leading from
Bradley’s eye for a try is undiminished, it would seem. He received the ball 35m out and
bamboozled the defence with a combination of pace and extreme dummies, simply eating
up the ground for an extravagant try. Just minutes later Norton had a shot at goal from a
penalty 40m away from Sodbury’s posts – they slotted it in and crept further in front. Solid,
controlled work from Sodbury yielded a try in the left hand corner soon after.
A short series of ruthless rucks took the Sods to the edge of Norton’s 22. Bradley hit the
pass flat and found Jon Cook, whose skill drew gasps from the crowd as he passed to Dom
Pullen in just one pace. Pullen had reverted to the wing where, incredibly, he topped the
carry count with 14. He also displayed pace, power, and a granite hardness as he
repeatedly smashed into the opposition, then finished the move in some style, making a
mockery of the remaining defence.
Now at 18-17, the travelling support believed. As the clock ran down, both teams seemed
fatigued and errors crept in. Sodbury’s determination to get the ball wide stretched the
hosts but, frustratingly, they always had an answer. With just 5 minutes left Sodbury
brilliantly socked an attacking lineout drive by Norton, only to be driven off the ball at the
resulting scrum and concede a try. This took away any chance of a losing bonus point.
The last few minutes were frenetic as Sodbury pushed hard. They kept the hosts in their
own 22 and forced a series of penalties. The final one, which was kicked at goal, just sailed
wide, leaving Western Counties’ new boys bereft.