St Bernadettes' forwards see off Barbarians in top-of-table clash
ST Bernadettes set their sights firmly on the Somerset One title after comfortably defeating nearest rivals Bristol Barbarians 14-3 to move four points clear at the top of the table.
The home side's victory was based on a totally dominant forward effort, particularly in the scrums, where they consistently shunted the Barbarians backwards.
And while this tremendous display secured an endless stream of possession, it also served to totally negate the considerable threat posed by the visitors' leading try scorer Craig Skuse, a dynamic and powerful No 8 who usually scores tries almost for fun, but who here was rarely able to even battle his way across the gain line.
He also had Barry O'Driscoll to deal with, and the 46-year-old scrum-half – called up from the thirds for only his second start of the season – relished every chance to get stuck in.
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Rob James, in his first season as Saints captain, was delighted, despite coming off at the break with a hamstring injury.
He said: "The forwards were absolutely brilliant today and I thought Chris Lock in particular was fantastic. He used to be a hooker but he's now in the back row in his first season back from a double knee operation and did a great job.
"Our aim now is to go on and win the title. Everything has started coming together this season, there has been a big commitment to training and we're doing everything as a unit."
Defeat was hard for Barbarians coach Neil 'Moose' Roberts, who spent 15 seasons with Saints.
He said: "I thought the emotion of the day got to us a bit and it's difficult when you're living off scraps.
"But it's only one game and it's not over by a long way. Fair play to Saints, but it could be a different story at our place later in the season."
The Barbarians started strongly enough, being held up over the line before taking the lead with a penalty from fly-half James Churchill in the seventh minute.
But Saints responded by securing turnover ball at a scrum and shipping the ball across the line for winger Sam Al-Faraj to dash in from 30 overs for an unconverted try.
For the next 70 minutes or so, it was virtually one-way traffic.
But in a game lacking any kind of continuity because of a high number of errors, from knock-ons and forward passes to accidental offsides and crooked line-out throws, Bernadettes added only a James penalty before the break, while Dan Harris slotted two three-pointers in the second period.
Two matches in Somerset Premier, meanwhile, will have to be rearranged after both were abandoned because of injuries to referees.
Old Reds were 11-5 down at Stothert & Pitt when the appointed official could no longer continue because of a strained calf. And a similar scenario unfolded at Wiveliscombe who were leading Gordano 14-12, when the match was called off at half-time with the ref suffering from a twisted knee.
Leaders Chew Valley, though, romped in 42-0 at home to Tor with winger Jack Evans and replacement No 8 Alex Cox both scoring tries on their final appearance before heading off on a six-month world jaunt.
Centre Will Bryan, lock Darren Jefferies and replacement lock Ross Elliott (2) also crossed.