By Ian Todd
October 7 2012
A better collective performance than last week’s, but still another defeat. Bristol showed glimpses of better organisation but too many errors and poor discipline let them down. The lineout functioned rather better, but the scrum seemed to struggle at times, although the weak refereeing didn’t help. Overall then it was a slightly encouraging performance but not enough to suggest that Bristol have really turned the corner.
Bristol kicked off in slightly overcast conditions and after a brief kicking duel a knock-on gave them the first scrum of the game and then the first of many free kick (and penalties). The refereeing of the scrum throughout was terrible with poor control of the engagement; resets, free kicks and penalties; first one way, then the next. However, the next scrum from Bristol was a shocker with the visiting pack shoved off their own ball. Oddly, at the next one Rotherham were nearly as bad. Rotherham finally made some headway, but the Bristol defence looked solid before a harsh penalty gave Rotherham a shot at the posts, but the kick was well off-target
Bristol were playing with positive intent and a good move ended up close to the line in the right hand corner. Rotherham were penalised and Bristol went for the lineout. Sadly Rotherham then had a free kick. Bristol counter-attacked well off the Rotherham kick, putting the hosts back under pressure and Rotherham were penalised again. This time Matt Jones went for the posts and it was a deserved 0 – 3 lead to Bristol. Jones had another chance soon after but his effort drifted wide. Rotherham tried to hit back but were repelled by fierce tackling and eventually knocked the ball on. Rotherham appeared to be coming back into the game after the early Bristol pressure but lack of discipline allowed Bristol to keep them well away from the danger zone. A penalty to touch permitted Bristol to launch an attack that culminated in a clumsy knock-on, but yet another free kick at the scrum saw them drive close to the line and another penalty allowed Jones to extend the lead.
Typically Bristol gave away a kickable penalty almost immediately after scoring when poor individual play following a long kick ahead from Rotherham left a player isolated and inevitably penalised for holding on with absolutely no one in position to provide support. Laws tucked the kick over and it was 3 – 6. Rotherham sought to exploit the long kicking game and again put Bristol under pressure. Wave after wave of the ridiculously large Rotherham players hammered in and took play right up to the Bristol line. The ball was held up twice by staunch defence at least twice but eventually Rieder just managed to touch the ball down on the line right in the corner. The conversion was very well taken and Rotherham were 10 – 6 up at half time.
Rotherham started the second period well but were able to make little headway against determined defence. Instead it was Bristol, following a relieving penalty kick, who strung together some dangerous attacks. First Mike Tagicakibau made good ground before being forced into touch by three tacklers and then Bristol launched a sudden attack from deep. Good quick passing fashioned a three to two overlap and, ignoring both the man outside and ‘advice’ from the Bristol Chief Executive, David McIlwaine cut an excellent line to wrong foot the defenders and cross by the posts. Jones converted for a 10 -13 lead.
Rotherham were unfazed by the setback and a well struck penalty settled whatever nerves they may have had to tie the score. Poor tackling from Bristol, in contrast to earlier efforts, allowed the hosts to power their way up to the Bristol line. Kyle Traynor was shown a yellow card (which seems inconsistent after Rotherham were penalised three or four times in succession with Bristol attacking close to the Rotherham line in the first half). With the pack a man down (Mitch Eadie going off to keep the front row fully manned) a couple of penalties swiftly followed and it was no surprise when the referee trotted beneath the posts to award the penalty try and take Rotherham into a 20 – 13 lead. A lead they extended when another scrum penalty was kicked between the uprights.
Bristol continued to compete and frankly were the only team trying to play any constructive rugby as the match drew to conclusion and an excellent long range penalty from inside his own half allowed replacement Tristan Roberts to silence some of his critics and secure the slight consolation of a losing bonus point, leaving the score at 23 – 16.