Romans show comeback ability in West of England Final showdown
Courtesy of Bath & Wiltshire Romans RLFC
Bath & Wiltshire Romans Rugby League Football Club (RLFC) eventually won the West of England Grand Final derby fixture against Bristol Sonics 34-30. The club who are still in their founding season are having an extremely successful year after having already won the first ever West of England Challenge Cup, finalists in the first ever West of England 9’s and finished the season top of the West of England League.
However, the Romans started the game badly going down 10-0 before they could get on the scoreboard themselves via some fast hands to wing Matty James and after a bit of a fumble went over in the corner. Huw Parks missed the conversion in what was to be a difficult day with the boot. Sonics scored another couple of tries half way through the first half to take the score to 20-4 with the Romans needing to tight up to stem the tide. Just before half-time the Romans managed to sneak over for an unconverted try via Jimmy Godfrey from close range to get them back within two scores range of the Sonics.
After a strong half time team talk from Coach and Armed Forces International Tom Howley the Romans did improve somewhat realising they needed to pull out all the stops to make up the Sonics advantage on the score board. Hooker Tom Plance was first to go over for an unconverted try out wide by exploiting a gap close to the line, then Armed Forces International tourist Mike Harrison found a gap in the centres after some good pass play from Huw Parks to round the full back then go over close to the sticks; Parks added the extra to bring the Romans within two points of the Sonics at 18-20.
Sonics managed to get their way back up the field after a series of penalties and Romans handling errors before lively hooker Jack Uren dived over the top of some Romans bodies for a converted try (18-26). Romans lifted into another gear when experience half-back and captain Paul Riley steamed through a gap in the defence to go in under the sticks after a 40 metre run to the line, this time easily converted by Huw Parks. The Romans were again only two behind at 24-26, before Parks became hero of the hour to score a try half way out after a 70 metre break on the way to the line; he failed to convert his own try so the Romans remained two in front at 28-26.
Fijian centre Bruce Vuetanatotoka sealed the victory by going over from 10 metres out after spotting a gap when the game had been restarted with a scrum, Parks converted 34-26. With only seconds to go the Sonics went in for a try in the corner. A hurried conversion was missed and soon after the Romans were pleased to hear the final whistle being blown to finish as 2015 Grand Final winners.
Romans spokesman Chris Chatten commented “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb in the first half going 20-4 down but we showed character and mental toughness to come back and win the fixture in the last 10 minutes without playing our best rugby league. Hopefully, this sort game will help us prepare for what is to come in the Harry Jepson competition”.
The Romans now go into the Harry Jepson competition with a quarter final fixture against South West Grand Final winners Cornish Rebels on Saturday 5th September (kick off and venue tbc). This is straight knock out rugby league with the semi-final being held on Saturday 12th September and the Harry Jepson Trophy Final being on Saturday 19th September.
The winner of the Harry Jepson Trophy will be given a place in the first round of the prestigious and historic first round of the Ladbrokes Rugby League Challenge Cup which will be played in early 2016.