By Ian Todd
November 19 2016
In the first Premiership derby for seven years Bristol came away with a losing bonus point and might even have claimed a draw at the very end. Although Bristol were competitive against a rather makeshift B**h side there is a world of difference between being competitive and winning. Bristol dominated possession for much of the opening quarter and for the closing ten minutes without ever looking able to cross the whitewash except by way of a drive from close range. In between they were under pressure throughout and never seemed able to break that stranglehold. B**h fashioned one breakthrough and scored the only try of the game. Bristol could never quite manage to do the same.
Bristol dominated the early possession, probing away at the home defence but without ever really managing to find a chink in the armour. It was an encouraging first quarter in many ways but having all that possession resulted in nothing except to see B**h with virtually their first foray into the Bristol half come away with a penalty. Fortunately Bristol were able to hit back almost immediately with a well taken effort from Billy Searle when the hosts went off their feet at the breakdown.
B**h started to come back into things as the half wore on and it was the Bristol defence that was tested. Generally it coped well but a couple of holes did briefly open up in midfield before Ellis cut a lovely line to slice through and feed the supporting Wilson to sprint in beneath the posts. It was a well worked score that took B**h into the lead at 10 – 3. Once again Bristol hit back quickly by way of another Searle penalty before Bristol gave away a very soft penalty of their own. However, with the half almost over B**h again infringed at the breakdown and Searle launched a long range kick that just had the legs to take Bristol in at 13 – 9.
Bristol were under pressure throughout most of the second half with the B**h tactical kicking game keeping the visitors pinned back in dangerous situations. In contrast, Bristol’s kicking game was rather ineffectual and, indeed, the side often resorted to trying to play their way out of their own 22. In some ways this is admirable but, in truth, Bristol lack the players to be effective at this type of game and instead it really betrayed an inability to take pressure off with an accurate kicking game. Oh for someone with the skills of Gavin Henson.
Despite the almost continual pressure the Bristol defence held firm until a penalty finally gave Homer a go at the posts to take his side into a 16 – 9 lead. It was a slender enough advantage but it seemed that B**h would surely extend it when Jason Woodward was yellow carded with Bath right up on the Bristol line. Bath pressed hard and Bristol gave away another penalty. The referee played advantage but the B**h player foolishly decided to take justice into his own hands and shoved Will Hurrell to the ground. A brief scuffle resulted and then the B**h penalty was reversed to let Bristol off the hook.
Bristol scarcely looked a man down and dealt well with the attacking threat of the home side before, perhaps surprisingly, starting to take the game to B**h even before Woodward’s return. Under pressure from the visitors B**h gave away a couple of penalties that allowed Bristol to build territory. With time ticking away Bristol pressed closer and closer with the pack working well. Bristol edged forward but were unable to fashion a decisive breakthrough. Searle darted close but the defence continued to hold out despite giving away a couple of penalties that many Bristol supporters felt might have warranted a yellow card given the earlier one against Bristol. With time almost up Bath were again penalised and Bristol went for touch. The B**h pack looked done in at this point and replacement Gaston Cortes was clearly on top so maybe the scrum would have been the better option or even a tap and go. In the event, although Bristol claimed the lineout, it was poor quality ball against a properly organised defence and it was disappointing, but not surprising, to see the ball lost forward. B**h claimed the ball and hoofed it off the pitch to claim the spoils.