Those up us who ventured out (and there were quite a few) were treated to a cracking game at the Crown Fields.
Visitors, Bridgwater, were the main stay in this spectacle as they were determined to play with pace and width, kicking was a seldom used option (when they did kick, fly half and full backs kicked extremely well). The fact that Keynsham kept the score so tight eventually was a testimony to their grit and determination.
Keynsham opened the sharper and there were fast and furious attacks, with the ball travelling back and forth with close driving work also coming into play. Bridgewater held out, only to concede a penalty try after a few 5-metre scrums, this was deemed a non-yellow card offence. The Keynsham pack were dominant in the scrums and on 10 minutes their prop, Craig Coleman, needed to be substituted; he was replaced by Craig Blyde. Further pressure from the home side produced no further points and they lost an opportunity near the line when a crooked-in was spotted.
After 25 minutes Bridgwater's scrum half was also injured and replaced by Kyran Devitt. The floodgates opened for the visitors shortly thereafter and they ran in 4 tries before half time, securing their try bonus point. The first came from a speculative pass in defence which did not go to hand; an attempted fly-hack rebounded nicely and centre, Rob Gurnett was able to run through to touch down, Fly-half Stuart Heal converting for 7-7. Almost immediately they created an overlap on the let wing for James Brake to score an unconverted try; 7-14. Within 2 minutes the 3rd followed; a penalty try (this was accompanied by a yellow card to Joe Clements) after a 20 metre driving maul was pulled down 7-19. 3 minutes from the half time whistle the bonus try came from George Sluman, yet again seizing on a Keynsham mistake; conversion slotted by Heal.
Keynsham regrouped and were pressing as half time approached but ill discipline meant the opportunity went a-begging and so it was a depressing score line of 7-26 at the break. Oakley Goodland replaced Phil Harvey at the start of the second half with Ryan Harding moving to tight head. Early Keynsham pressure brought about a penalty, duly slotted by Sam Challenger to pull back 3 points. Keynsham enjoyed another period of ascendancy although Challenger was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt. Adam Harrison, who had started the second half with a heavily strapped ankle, was forced off, to be replaced by Gaz Bradnock who took up the right-wing position, John Pearce moving to scrum half. Shortly after Challenger`s miss, Heal kicked a penalty for the visitors moving them 19 points clear again.
Matt Withey was added to the mix in lieu of Joe Clements with just 20 minutes remaining. Keynsham again came back at Bridgwater and were rewarded with a try by Jack Evans following a powerful catch-drive from a lineout near the line, Challenger converted this to close the gap to 12.
Prop George Powell picked up a knee injury and Harvey returned to the fray. Keynsham were still on top at this stage and despite their best efforts to foul it up, were relieved when winger Bradnock stretched out a long arm to touch for a well taken try, just inside the touchline; conversion narrowly missed. Surprisingly Keynsham were penalised when their scrum was advancing to give the visitors a chance to erase Keynsham`s losing bonus; to the pleasure of the home crowd the normally reliable Heal`s kick bounced dead off the post to leave it at 22-29. Keynsham still looked urgent and Bridgwater were pleased to get the ball into touch for the final whistle.
Bridgwater were the better of two good sides and showed Keynsham how mistakes should be capitalised on in that 22 minutes spell before half time. They had the man of the match in full-back Will Munro (although our match day sponsors picked George Powell) who made many surging runs and whose positional play was immaculate, not far behind was skipper Heal who was a fine orchestrator. The lesson for the return game must be – more precision when we kick. For the home side there was plenty of praise to be dished out, everyone gave of their all and it would be wrong to single out individuals. The pack were dominant in the scrum and all eight were active in the loose, both in defence and in attack; the line-out work though, less effective.
The backs` tackling was strong throughout and some of their movement in attack was pleasing– it`s just the odd mistakes – but they are human (so I`m told). It was a bonus point well-earned although they won’t be happy with losing.
It’s a blank weekend next and then it`s on to “carpet” at Hornets, another hard game expected.