Avon Rugby 19-17 Bristol Harlequins
Western Counties North
Sat 20th Sept 14
By Steve Bird
Avon continued their wining ways with a hard fought 19-17 win over a feisty and previously unbeaten Bristol Harlequins side in a close match, admirably controlled by referee Roger Gilson.
Wearing their new kit sponsored by Dave Vowles Roofing Contractors, Avon made the perfect start with a try inside 30 seconds. Stuart Dilloway bravely fielded a towering kick and Ross Atherton chased through a loose ball to touch down the opening try. Rob Fitch converted to leave the visitors visibly stunned and, within 10 minutes, Avon extended their lead. Good approach work from Kane Book and Ben Hurd moved the ball wide to 17 year old winger James Leeming who sidestepped inside for a try in the corner.
Quins responded with some aggressive counter attacks and, after a number of off the ball incidents, saw their hooker yellow carded. Avon seized their opportunity as a well rehearsed lineout catch and drive allowed hooker Ben Hurd to score their 3rd try, again converted by Fitch for a 19 point lead in the first quarter.
Playing with great confidence and recycling possession for phase after phase, it seemed only a matter of time before Avon added to their score as Leeming, Dan Griffin, Kai Harwood and Chas Meddick were all held up just short of the visitors try line. Yet strangely, this proved to be Avon’s last score as Quins powerful pack came more and more into the game, well supported by their scrum half and inside centre who proved a constant threat.
Eventually Quins pressure paid off shortly before half time as Avon failed to control a scrum inside their 22 and Ross Hickery stole the ball to touch down for an opportunist try which he also converted. Soon after the interval, Quins again delivered a sucker blow as winger Josh White reacted quickest to a blind side kick for a soft try in the corner, again converted by Hickery.
At 19-14, the game took a different complexion as Quins fierce counter rucking and disruptive pack applied the pressure and severely tested Avon’s defence. Led by man of the match Scott Book, Avon responded to the physical challenge and gradually began to reassert their superiority. Despite securing a steady supply of possession and camping inside the visitors half, Avon couldn’t break down their stubborn defence to make the vital break through.
The match became more tense after Avon turned down a kickable penalty to put them 2 scores ahead in a forlorn attempt at the bonus point try. This almost came back to haunt them as Quins moved back downfield and slotted another Hickery penalty to close the gap to two points.
Eventually, Avon’s collective desire and growing maturity as a team allowed them to close out the game for a narrow win to preserve their unbeaten record and maintain 2nd place in Western Counties North.
Next week, Avon travel to newly promoted Bristol Saracens.
Meanwhile, Avon 2nds were awarded the game by default as Oldfield conceded the points, allowing Avon to move up to 2nd place in Somerset 3 North.