Rugby Union: Hopkins' cause for hope

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The Independent Online
Bridgend. . . .29

Bristol . . . .12

WHAT once used to be among the most competitive of fixtures has turned into something more akin to a nursery match. Bridgend used last night's game to blood another of their successful youth XV, while Bristol gave debuts to three of their Under-21 team.

Ralph Knibbs was one of only four survivors from the Bristol side which notched a notable league double over the Harlequins last weekend. He strolled through proceedings as if it were a training game.

Bridgend, and particularly their teenage full-back Mark Hopkins, had other ideas and it took only six minutes of his highly promising debut before he added a senior try to his 22 youth-team touchdowns this season.

That was the first of three first-half tries from the home team as they raced into a 24- point lead. Nigel Spender drove over from a short penalty move for the second and Jeff Daley exploited the reluctance of Bristol's midfield to tackle by waltzing through half a dozen half-hearted attempts.

The class act in the Bridgend side, as he has been for most of the season, Matthew Lewis converted all three tries and added a penalty to give further impetus to the home effort.

Against the wind in the second half Bridgend found their visitors more resilient and Bristol broke their duck 11 minutes after the interval. Acting captain Dean Wring executed a perfect dummy scissors with Knibbs to create a hole in the defence through which he was able to race to the posts for a try which his half-back partner Mark Newall converted.

Bridgend: Tries Hopkins 2, N Spender, Daley; Conversions M Lewis 3. Penalty:

M Lewis. Bristol: Try D Ring, Lathrope; Conversions Newall.

Bridgend: M Hopkins; G Webbe, J Daley, C Bradshaw, B Grabham; M Lewis, J Lewis; T Bumford, I Greenslade (capt; J Hudson, 47), S Gale, N Spender, I Spender, J Purnell, N Jones, G Evans.

Bristol: A Burchill; D John, R Knibbs, M Brain, A Williams; D Wring (capt), M Newall; P Smith, D Palmer, D Hinkins, M Fontaine, I Pattern, S Dawson (A Lathrope, 73), T Griffin, M Whittaker.

Referee: O James (Pontypridd).

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