13th Apr 2019
Chipping Sodbury 1st XV – 26
Midsomer Norton 1st XV – 31
This contest between Sodbury in 6th and Norton in 2nd got off to the most incredible start. After five minutes of bone-jarring defence, Sodbury exploded like a huge Chinese pyrotechnic. A lineout steal on halfway was run hard at Norton’s defence; Sodbury got a penalty and Tom Head struck. He tapped the ball to himself and darted forward, making vital metres. Quick recycling took the pack through three phases until Dan Bradley had the ball in his hands. Bradley looked up and found wing Gavin Edgar ready to go – a long, flat pass and Edgar was off doing what he's done all season. His pace, strength, and determination is legendary at Sodbury, and he duly embarrassed two defenders for an emphatic try from 40 metres.
The next try, minutes later, came again from turnover ball. Jason Petchey – the arch hitman – pounced on a loose Norton lineout ball, the pack pulled off a midfield ‘spin’ and a chasm opened. Jon Cook was on the runaround and accelerated like a top fuel dragster to scorch down the wing. At 5m out he was hit high in the tackle, but such is his core strength that he only took a brief knee before getting up and scoring – only to find that a penalty try had been awarded.
Norton worked hard to force their way into the Sodbury 22 after the restart, but the hosts showed their mettle once more to blast away a 5m lineout drive. The ball went wide and was knocked on: Otto Avent pounced on it and under advantage Sodbury were allowed to play. One ruck and Bradley was off on a trademark break, pouring through a gap and making 30 metres. On hand was Cook, bristling with menace and pace – boy is he fast, and nobody could catch him as he went in to score from 50 metres.
On just 15 minutes, No. 8 Pete Butcher picked up from a scrum on Norton’s 22. Butcher has a very large hand and scooped the ball away and out of trouble throughout the game. Butcher surged forward, deep into the defence; once support arrived, the ball was spat out quickly. Bradley instinctively knows when Edgar is close, this time he came crashing through the midfield like a tidal wave, splitting the defence who didn't look interested in trying to stop him. This was the quickest scoring since Jon Cook's 12-minute hat-trick back in September at Old Richians.
The rest of the first half was a brave demonstration of committed defence from Sodbury as Norton, who are second in the league for a reason, tried to tip the scales their way. On point for Sodbury were midfield maestro Dan Cole, Butcher, Joe Horton, and of course the destructive duo of Otto Avent and Jason Petchey. The visitors had their way on the cusp of halftime despite Sodbury’s best efforts.
The second half saw Norton strangle the game somewhat as their big forwards became more effective. The Sods were finding the scrummage hard going now and the Ken Bruce lookalike referee was left with little option but to penalise them. This kept Sodbury in their own half for 30 minutes and helped Norton take the score to 26-24.
During this period, however, Head was making breaks and try-saving tackles. Matt Cook was held up over the line, Butcher continued his breathless ball-carrying, and front row talisman Lee Ralph proved emphatically to the large crowd that he is a true warrior.
Once more it was Sodbury penalties that released the pressure on Norton: from pressing in the visitors' 22, the Sods found themselves back in their own 22. Norton opted to scrummage the final penalty and Sodbury found themselves, having given everything, pushed over for a try which saw Norton take a win which had seemed improbable at the start of the game.