By Ian Todd
January 5 2017
Bristol were in front at half time with Gloucester failing to trouble the scoreboard. A vastly improved performance from the hosts in the second half took the game away from Bristol in emphatic fashion. Two very late tries put a slight gloss on the final score but it was too little, too late and even the losing bonus point remained out of reach. Time is fast running out for Bristol to retain a Premiership status that took so long to regain.
The game started in true West Country style with a host of unforced errors and some pretty wayward kicking from both teams. However, it was Bristol who settled earliest and Will Hurrell made some ground into the 22 and Gloucester were penalised at the breakdown. Jason Woodward, operating from fullback, was on kicking duties and he stepped up to give Bristol the early lead. The home side continued to struggle and indiscipline saw Woodward double the Bristol lead just at the end of the first quarter.
Heinz was full of beans though and finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about with some powerful carrying but the Bristol defence was solid. Gloucester looked dangerous when a clever crossfield kick from Burns seemed to have opened up the defence only for the ball to elude Purdy. The referee was playing advantage though and up stepped Hook to narrow the gap from just outside the 22. Or rather, it would have narrowed the gap had the straightforward kick not sailed wide of the posts. The crowd was not very impressed, except for the travelling supporters. Gloucester were pushing hard at the end of the half and eschewed the chance to kick for goal and took the bold option of going for the corner. Boldness that went unrewarded when Gloucester were penalised as they attempted to drive from five metres out. Surprisingly Bristol went in at half time 0 – 6 up.
What was less surprising was the sight of a chastened Gloucester coming out in the second period, reducing the errors and tightening up their kicking game. Replacement Twelvettrees pegged Bristol back in their own half and the resulting lineout was promptly lost. Scott powered onto a neat pass and was over beneath the posts. Hook wasn’t going to miss this one and the hosts were in front.
They clearly intended to keep up the pressure and Bristol were hard put to keep their line intact. Twice Gloucester forced their way over, twice Bristol held the ball up. The pressure was unrelenting and the Bristol scrum fell apart, Heinz claimed the loose ball and was over for a converted try. The Gloucester forwards effort was taking a real toll on the Bristol defence and Jamal Ford-Robinson was the slightly mystified recipient of a yellow card (although it did look as if he had pulled the maul down). The referee was not simply content with the card and he awarded a penalty try as well.
To their credit Bristol did try to hit back and Billy Searle showed fine skill to slip through the defence and send in Jon Fisher by the posts. Sadly the officials felt there had been an obstruction by James Phillips earlier in the move. This seemed to dishearten Bristol and Purdy showed superb footwork to outwit Luke Arscott and touchdown for the bonus point try.
Bristol were now twenty points adrift and with just ten minutes left to play. They regrouped and launched a final assault. A nicely executed chip ahead down the left wing freed up Jack Wallace for what most observers thought was a late consolation try. Bristol had other ideas and a quickly taken conversion effort went wide but meant there was still a little time on the clock. The Gloucester restart was claimed and Luke Arscott muscled his way over the line. Woodward converted and the final score was 26 – 18. The earlier missed conversion meant that the losing bonus point eluded Bristol’s grasp. Ten games, ten loses.