Bramley Buffaloes recorded their first away win of the season on Saturday when they got the better of Bristol Sonics in a tight contest at a rain swept Aretians RFC. This was a hard fought victory which was only sealed when the Buffaloes scored two tries in the final 10 minutes.
Once again there were numerous changes to the Buffaloes team from that which had played the previous week against Hemel. Notably, Danny O’Connor returned at loose forward and Nick Fontaine came in at full back. Ben Pitts and Josh Tordoff both made their debuts, whilst Steve Suddards also returned after playing three times in 2011.
It was no surprise given the atrocious weather conditions that mistakes were aplenty from both teams, however in the first half in particular the Buffaloes did not help themselves by making numerous unforced errors such as poor passes and poor pass selection. This handed Sonics field possession and field position on numerous occasions. A Sonics 40/20 on two minutes set the tone for the half, however they could not capitalise on this as a poor pass saw the ball thrown into touch. Sonics pressurised the Buffaloes line for the first twenty minutes and only some terrific scrambling defence by all thirteen players kept the Buffaloes line intact. All Bramley had to show in the first quarter of the game was a deft grubber from Steven Gill which led to both James Woods and Dave Parker both going close.
It was Bristol who eventually took the lead when on the back of two penalties the Sonics worked the ball wide and winger James Raymond was judged to have grounded the ball cleanly in the left corner; however Andrew Staniland’s one-on-one tackle looked to have dislodged the ball. That try came on 24 minutes, however the gallant Buffaloes responded within six minutes when hooker Ben Pitts collected a grubber kick that took a deflection off an on-rushing Bristol defender and crashed over midway between the posts and the corner flag. Bizarrely this was the only occasion in the first half that the Buffaloes completed a full set of six tackles! Simon Lindsay ‘s conversion drifted wide at the last minute. Despite looking ragged for much of the half t6he Buffaloes somehow found themselves going into the break tied at four all.
The Buffaloes vocal travelling support hoped that the words of Woods, Gill and O’Connor would have the desired effect as the game as the game was there for the taking for whichever team could control the game better.
Straight from the kick-off Bristol got the ball back and picked up where the first half ended, camped inside the Buffaloes 40m zone. Once again though to a man the Buffaloes scrambled and harried the Sonics players and forced them into poor options. Twice Sonics players got over the line only to be held up by some tenacious tackling. On 50 minutes Buffaloes winger Andrew Staniland showed no little strength and pace to race from his 20m line, busting tackles as he carried the ball 50m downfield. From his run the ball was eventually spun right to centre Aaron Blake who squeezed over in the right corner, Simon Lindsay adding the first of two crucial touchline conversions as Bramley hit the front for the first time.
The game remained tight as neither team could find that next crucial score. Bramley’s discipline was not great, losing the first half 5-3 and 9-8 overall, however midway through the second half the Buffaloes did get two or three quick penalties which helped to relieve pressure and ask a few more questions of the Sonics defence. Sonics did look to force a few more passes as the clock ticked down, whilst the Buffaloes were adopting a more basic approach of one-out rugby and a good kick chase. The score remained at 10-4 going into the final ten minutes, though Bramley had to make a number of crucial try-saving tackles to keep out Bristol’s Marcus Brooker and Andre Samura.
On 71 minutes, Bristol prop Daniel Brooker was sin-binned for throwing a punch. Bramley took advantage of the extra space on offer and scored two late tries to put the game out of sight. First Andrew Staniland crashed over in the right corner following some quick handling for a well deserved try, then substitute Aaron Batley showed good composure and awareness to dive over in the left corner with less than a minute remaining after more good handling to put some gloss on the scoreline.
This was an excellent win for the Buffaloes who moved further away from the bottom of the table with this victory. Although the team’s play at time was ragged, for which the weather did play a part, nevertheless the defence on show will have delighted the coaching staff. Defensively the Buffaloes were excellent, all sixteen players made key contributions at vital times. Offensively we were scratchy, particularly in the second half; however once we had possession in decent field position we always looked capable of scoring points. It was good to see a more composed kicking game as well and Steven Gill worked tirelessly at standoff.
Buffaloes Game Star: Nick Fontaine gave a very solid display at full back and the Sonics awarded the man-of-the-match to him. For me though Andrew Staniland, James Woods and Ben Pitts were outstanding. That said all the players deserve the plaudits. Danny put in his usual tackling stint and it was good to see ‘Sid’ Lindsay nail two quality conversions in poor conditions.
Gamebreaker: The sin-binning of Bristol prop Daniel Brooker 10 minutes from time. Bramley used the extra man effectively, scoring two tries whilst he was off the pitch.
1. Luke Savage, 2. James Raymond, 3. Marcus Brooker, 4. Mike Gatson, 5. Johan Schoeman, 6. Dom Swann, 7. Aaron Pearson, 8. Gary Carpenter, 9. Harry Marson, 10. Daniel Brooker, 11. Josh Sampson, 12. Matt Douglas, 13. Wes Rodgers, Subs (all Used); 14. Curtis Asante, 15. Andre Samura, 16. Jake Robertson, 17. Tom Verber
Tries: James Raymond
1. Nick Fontaine, 2. Andrew Staniland, 3. Aaron Blake, 4. Simon Lindsay, 5. Brett Hallas, 6. Steven Gill, 7. Steve Suddards, 8. James Woods, 9. Ben Pitts, 10. Dave Parker, 11. Tom Langton, 12. Graham Nash, 13. Danny O’Connor, Subs (All Used); 14. Aaron Batley, 15. John Tordoff, 16. Anthony Mills
Tries: Ben Pitts, Aaron Blake, Andrew Staniland, Aaron Batley
Goals: Simon Lindsay 2
Final score: 4-20
Referee: Darren Scott
Penalty Count: 9(5)-8(3)
Sin Binned: Brooker (Sonics) 70 mins
Next game: Sunday 24 June 2012
Competition: Conf 3
Opponents: Coventry Bears
Kick-off: 2.30 pm