CHELTENHAM PHOENIX 4 – 54 BRISTOL ALL GOLDS
Christopher Wilson at Newlands Sports Ground, Cheltenham
The Bristol All Golds travelled to Cheltenham for their first meeting with the Phoenix since 2018 for a friendly game on Saturday.
The first half was played at a good pace with both teams committed in defence and some skilled attacking play on show. Both sides ran hard and hit hard in what was a very good game of rugby league.
Wing Mason Robbins crossed for four of the All Golds’ eleven tries, with captain Brandon Lamb weighing in with a hat-trick from full back. Darrion Ball added a brace to his three goals while Jake Musgrove also went over and Dom Williams collected his first for the club. Greg Hamilton added a couple of goals to the tally.
It was a good run out for the Bristol side who would otherwise have faced three weeks without a game following their fine win in Torfaen last time out.
The persistent showers cleared just before the kick-off and the home side had the better of the opening stages played in bright sunshine. They were unlucky not to take an early lead after a short kick through close to the line was touched down, but the try was ruled out for offside.
Their bad luck continued as their talismanic scrum half Sam Hughes suffered a game-ending leg injury and without him, the Phoenix weren’t the same team. The effort was still there defensively but their threat in attack was diminished.
It wasn’t long before the All Golds found a weakness.
From a scrum deep in their own half, Ball combined with Lamb and Robbins to race 60 metres upfield and though Jack Uren was held up over the line on the next tackle, Ball switched the play and Tom Austin did well to offload to Robbins who dived in for his first try.
Five minutes later, the Bristol side forced an error to earn a scrum deep in Phoenix territory and Dom Williams wrestled out of a tackle to score under the posts, Hamilton making no mistake with the extras.
Phoenix then had a good spell of pressure on the All Golds’ line but couldn’t break through. A scrum gave the visitors an opportunity with Ball and Lamb combining again on a sharp break upfield, Robbins finishing the move in the corner.
Sean Roberts was then denied a try for the home side following a double movement and the All Golds smoothly moved upfield to force a goal line dropout from which Uren produced a brilliantly timed pass from dummy half to send Lamb over untouched.
Right on the half time whistle, Ball stabbed a short kick through the line and won the chase to score, adding the goal himself to leave the visitors 24-0 ahead.
Ball scored his second try a minute into the second period. Hamilton’s high kick was fumbled by Zak Taylor and from the scrum the All Golds’ scrum half dummied his way over the line.
The All Golds were in full control now and the Phoenix were constantly trying to play under pressure. After an error early in the tackle count, Robbins secured his hat-trick from an incisive last-tackle play after good hands from Williams sent him over.
With an hour gone, the Phoenix got the score their effort deserved. After a Roberts break had got them upfield and a set restart allowed them to build pressure, swift hands finally caught out the All Golds’ defence and Matt Griffiths crashed over for an unconverted score.
The response was quick in coming as the All Golds regathered the restart and Lamb blasted through the defence to score.
Jake Musgrove then tried a dart from dummy half but was held short, though the referee, Will Gilder, who had an excellent game, spotted a late tackle in the build-up.
From the penalty, the ball was spread wide and James Royle sent Robbins over for his fourth of the day, Ball adding a fine goal from near the touchline.
The visitors were finishing strongly and, after earning a repeat set, Mike Harrison’s flick pass gave Lamb plenty of space to cross for his hat-trick.
Musgrove took over the goalkicking duties and though he missed the easy conversion, he made up for it by diving over from dummy half close to the line to round off the scoring.
This fixture with the Phoenix, with the added spice of local rivalry, ended up being the best preparation possible for next weekend’s home game with Swindon St George.
PHOENIX: Zak Taylor; Matt Griffiths, Damien Dinwiddy, Luke Langridge, Justin Lee; Drew Robertson, Sam Hughes; Richard Carr, Sean Roberts, Liam Stretton; Liam Moore (Capt), Jack Harvey; Matt Robinson; INTERCHANGE: Joe Hart, Sam Buckthought, Nathan Clarkson, Ryan Barrowcliffe, Anthony Saul, George Wickham, Tristram O’Neill.
Tries: Griffiths (61)
Goals: Langridge 0 from 1
ALL GOLDS: Brandon Lamb (Capt); Mason Robbins, Dom Williams, Mason Ball, Tom Gaffney; Greg Hamilton, Darrion Ball; Ed Tait, Jack Uren, Dylan Thomas; Tom Austin, Aaron Ryan; Mike Harrison; INTERCHANGE: Jake Musgrove, Kieran Webb, James Royle, Jeremy Leonard, Luke Bowyer.
Tries: Robbins (11, 26, 51, 69), Williams (16), Lamb (36, 63, 73), D. Ball (39, 41), Musgrove (77)
Goals: Hamilton 2 from 5, D. Ball 3 from 4, Musgrove 0 from 2.
All Golds player of the Match: A number of players stood out, Ed Tait ran strongly making good yards and putting his side on the front foot, Darrion Ball ran the midfield expertly, but the award goes to Mason Robbins for his four tries and solid defensive contribution when called on.
Scoring sequence: 0-4, 0-10, 0-14, 0-20, 0-24, (HT), 0-28, 0-34, 4-34, 4-40, 4-46, 4-50, 4-54, (FT)
Penalty Count: 5-5
Referee: Will Gilder
Image: All Golds’ Ed Tait takes on the Cheltenham defence (Image courtesy of Lewis Mitchell Photography)