By Ian Todd
November 6 2016
After a turbulent week for Bristol it was something of a surprise to find there was actually a game of rugby on Friday evening. Yes, it was just the Anglo Welsh Cup and no, Andy Robinson wouldn’t have been in charge for the game in any event but for the optimists it was a chance to see if a Bristol side would show signs of a renaissance. Unsurprisingly, at the start of an interregnum, there really weren’t signs of a new regime. The same virtues and vices were on view. A solid display in the set-piece, a brief flourish of dominance before defensive frailties and poor discipline undid the early good work. However, Bristol never gave up, some individuals did well and that’s probably all we would have wanted from a cup game before the season started. Sadly, given the league results and recent events most supporters will have wanted more.
The hosts went in to an early lead when Bristol’s academy centre James Newey knocked on and Adams snapped up the loose ball to sprint clear for an unconverted try. Bristol almost made an immediate response with Tom Varndell hauled down just metres short after claiming the restart. Bristol continued to press and Worcester were penalised. The pack drove over the line only for it to be adjudged to have been held up. Finally the pressure told with the powerful Giorgi Nemsadze crashing over and Billy Searle converting.
The Bristol forwards were definitely on top at this point and they shoved their opponents back at the scrum and Worcester were penalised. Searle calmly took Bristol into a deserved 5 – 10 lead. Worcester gave away another penalty and Searle struck again. With thirty minutes played Worcester at last managed to hold on to possession but the Bristol defence coped well and the hosts continued to make basic errors. So it was against the run of play when Worcester scored right on half-time. Willison made a good break and popped the ball to Adams, who then freed Stelling for another unconverted score but one that brought Worcester back into the game.
Warriors started the second half much more positively. Bristol went down to 14 with Hawkins yellow carded and Pennell took advantage of the space to cut a great line and Adams supported well to go over in the corner. The conversion put Warriors into a 17 - 13 lead. Bristol then lost another man to the sin-bin Jack Wallace given his marching orders for a very clumsy tip-tackle. With space all over the field Dowsett sliced through for his side’s fourth try. The fifth was not long to come and with Stelling freed by a long pass, a neat chip ahead, well gathered and in at the corner for a lovely converted try.
Despite these blows Bristol tried to respond. Luke Arscott intercepted a sloppy pass but was tackled just short of the line by Shillcock. Wallace, back on the pitch, was up in support and dived over. Searle added the conversion. Still Bristol kept up the pressure and Varndell showed a fine turn of pace to sprint in for Bristol’s third try. Searle’s conversion attempt struck the upright, but Bristol were now at 31-25. Bristol knew they were in with a chance to snatch an unlikely victory and the chances improved when Cox was shown a yellow card for a late tackle but they simply could not find a way through the defence as the hosts clung on for victory.