The Taunton Tigers loyal fans experienced a rollercoaster weekend as the National League Div 2 suffered a heart breaking loss to high flying Bristol on Saturday and then pulled off a fantastic win against play-off rivals North East Wales. With Paul Yabsley and the Anderson twins returning there was a more physical edge about the Tigers. Taunton proved against the two of the biggest teams in the league that they can now stand up and hold their ground against anyone at this level.
Bristol, who overtook Derby to go top of the table, were surprised by the ferocity of the Tigers defence that cut down the supply to Ahmed (6′10″) Grainger (6′8″) and Hutchison (6′8″) keeping all the big men below 10 points. Matthew Nolan (MVP) epitomised the energy and spirit of the home side, closing down young star Greg Streete and repeatedly forcing him down cul-de-sacs.
Bristol were kept to a season's low of 27 points at the half but Taunton struggled offensively themselves. Taunton, recognised nationally for their intricate player and ball movement continued to create quality opportunities but largely failed to convert.
Nevertheless as the final minute approached Tigers led 66 – 65 and still had time for the last shot after Streete had made a three-point shot for Bristol. A roar was quickly replaced with a sigh as Kevin Anderson's final shot appeared to go in and then out of the hoop.
Whilst disappointed by the loss, the team were clearly proud of their performance and took real positives into the game against NEWI Nets on Sunday. The returning crowd were given a true Tigers treat as their patented fast break rolled into action. Taunton entered the game knowing that a win would propel them back into 3rd place whilst a loss could take them back to 6th in such a close Division.
In the away fixture before Christmas the powerful and experienced Wrexham outfit had slowed the game down and forced a 9 point win. This time it was Taunton who controlled the tempo. North Wales stayed with pace initially only to eventually be ‘run over’ by the Tigers freight train.
Captain Graham Jones marshalled his troops with authority reminding his players not to back down against the increasing physical pressure supplied by the Nets. With the proud Nets, led by Welsh legend Weedle, refusing to give up, Tigers enforcer Paul Yabsley was forced to show his all-round game. Yabsley put his body on the line on his way to an immense 15 rebounds to ensure the fast Tigers guards had the possession they required.
The selfless attitude of the home side was reflected in the scoring, where no less than 6 players finished with 10 point or more and all 12 players scored. Coach Ronnie Heath saw the weekend as another milestone for Taunton,
“You got a real sense of the ambition of the whole club this weekend, from the staff through to the supporters. We have proved we developed the mental toughness to go with our amazing talent.”
The Tigers travel to Plymouth on Saturday and then face the challenge of Birmingham Athletics at home on Sunday 17:00. The midlands team have been strengthened by the collapse of the Bullets franchise that leaves England's 2nd city with one team. Taunton lost by 20 points away to Birmingham and will once again have to impose their tempo on the game if they are to turn their fortunes around.