After last weekend’s disappointing 3 point loss to Bristol Saracens, there was a feeling of optimism amongst the supporters, a strong Es’ side, home advantage, a dry sunny day, North Bristol below Es in the table.
1st XV SQUAD: Kallen Martin, Jack Houlder, Tom Brewer, Adan Skyner, Ben Charlton, Will Tobin, Henry KP, Jakob Harding, Sam Hygate, Matty Carr ©, Tom Cole, Alex Lee, Sam Brewer, Tobias Burden, Stephen Terera, Fergus Blyth, Jake Perry, Will Woppleton
North Bristol kicked off and Es went through the gears, forward drives from prop Kallan Martin and lock Ben Charlton taking play to the NB 22, where a penalty infringement gave scrum half Sam Highgate a 3 pointer to set the scoreboard moving, 3-0.
An NB forward pass brought play back for the key first scrum, and test, with Es looking reassuringly solid. Subsequent possession was lost following an Es’ knock on. New fullback Stephen Terera caught the eye with some pacey runs from deep.
Next, it was NB on the attack, moving the ball well to score a good try in the corner, 3-5.
Es were back on the offensive, with a penalty advantage signalled by the ref, Es cut loose, the Brewer brothers interlinked in a multi passing move that put lurking lock Adam Skyner over in the corner. Highgate kicking a difficult conversion for a 10-5 lead in the 22nd minute.
NB backs always looked dangerous, and from close range winger Tom Cole took a bullet for the team, being yellow carded for what the ref called a ‘cynical foul’. Es were holding out and looking to go into half time with a 10-5 lead, NB had other ideas and leaky defence from Es led to a 7 pointer for NB.
Half time score, 10-12.
Es kicked off the second half and immediately conceded a high tackle penalty on the Es’ 22, 10-15 to NB.
At last, Es upped the tempo, storming into the NB 22, quick hands from Henry KP put fullback Terera away, who gassed his man on the outside and cut behind the posts to make the conversion easier, 17-15 to Es after 46 minutes.
From the restart Es forced their way downfield, moving the ball from right to left and back again, with winger Cole crashing over in the corner, 22-15 on 52 minutes.
It was looking promising for Es, however, momentum was lost, with possession in attacking positions lost time and again due to handling errors and penalties. Will Tobin and Jack Houlder were both carrying over the gain line, however support was not arriving to ruck over and recycle.
NB were dangerous ball in hand, with the Es’ line under siege, wave after wave until inevitably in the 75th minute NB went over in the corner, 22 – 20, missing the conversion that would have drawn them level.
Supporters were getting that ominous feeling, could Es hold out another 4 minutes? A missed tackle and NB were on the Es’ 22, another penalty gave NB an easy kick to snatch what was a deserved victory. 22 – 23,
A losing bonus point, same as last week, was no consolation, two games that Es could have and should have won, small margins.
If there were any positives to come out of the game, it was a clear training need in some areas. Discipline - the referee confirmed after the game that Es conceded 13 penalties. Look after the ball - at least 10 knock-ons and handling errors, and some wayward kicking. That plus the 13 penalties gave NB possession about 30 times. Few teams can give the ball away 30 times and expect to win.
The fact Es came so close, with 3 superb tries demonstrate what Es can do, with enough decent possession. Get the basics sorted and these close games will end with Es winning.
Next week Es are away to Dursley, who are one point ahead of Es in the table, and lost 43-10 at Colstonians on Saturday. It looks like it could be an exciting game.
Supporters Man of the Match: Sam Highgate – reliable off the tee, great distribution and sniping breaks.
FINAL SCORE: Old Elizabethans 22 – 23 North Bristol
Tries: Adam Skyner, Stephen Terera, Tom Cole
Conversions: Sam Hygate (2)
Penalties: Sam Hygate
Full Table and Fixture List below
Report by: Andrew Tobin
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