By Ian Todd
February 11 2017
A win would have seen Bristol off the bottom. Instead a horrible 'performance', relieved only by Tom Varndell's 91st Premiership try, ensured that Bristol would remain stuck in last place and killed off the optimism engendered by the recent league results. In truth there were actually some good aspects to Bristol’s play but they were hugely outweighed by a failure to carry out some of the basics to anything even close to an acceptable standard. Poor ball retention seemed to be the worst culprit, undermining any of the good work Bristol put in. Combine this with a tactical kicking game that failed to give any territory or control and it was a recipe for disaster even against a side that was apparently unable to play for more than 30 seconds without having at least four players collapsing to the ground at the next break in play.
Many have pointed out the need to get off to a quick start or at least prevent the opposition, as too often this season, from doing so. Sadly Bristol took the opposite approach by conceding a really soft try with just a couple of minutes played. ‘Quins put pressure on the Bristol line, the defence came up, there was no cover behind, a chip through and Marchant in by the posts for a converted try. Training ground stuff for one side and you would hope not training ground stuff for the other.
Fortunately Bristol managed to eat into that lead with a Jason Woodward penalty, only to promptly give away one of their own. A cold evening was then warmed up with a powerful break by Will Hurrell, Billy Searle neatly passing on to Tom Varndell in a bit of space and the winger powered over in the corner. It was his 91st Premiership try and he now holds the record. Congratulations to him. Unfortunately he did injure himself in scoring and, although he struggled on for a short while, had to leave the field. Even more unfortunately this was the last time in the entire match that Bristol troubled the scoreboard.
‘Quins moved further in front with a long-range Jackson penalty and then, just before half-time, Ryan Bevington was shown yellow for a clumsy high tackle. Jackson couldn’t claim the points but his side was going to play most of the opening ten minutes of the second half with a man advantage.
An advantage they swiftly exploited when Bristol got off to a terrible start. Yarde scrambled through and under the defence before Reddish, up in support, smashed his way over. It mirrored how the first half had started and Bristol never recovered. Ward then powered into the Bristol defence and set up Mulchrone for the visitors third. The bonus point was racked up in humiliating style. Bristol pressed hard to salvage something from the wreckage and Quins winger Visser was shown yellow. Still Bristol struggled to find a way over the line but Bristol were awarded a penalty at a line-out. Replacement Alby Mathewson quickly tapped and went - but his pass was intercepted and Quins raced up the field to score, despite some valiant chasing back, with Hopper scoring to make it 32-8. I’m not clear on the law here, but there were three ‘Quins players within 10 metres of Mathewson, one of whom intercepted the pass and the other two went off in support. Shouldn’t that have been called back? In any event it completely swung things back to the visiting side and they duly scored again when Chisholm touched down at the base of the posts. The final insult was a last-second penalty that pushed ‘Quins past 40 points.