What would you give for this?
By Ian Todd
February 21 2017

A famous victory that ultimately proved in vain with Bristol relegated after a dismal performance against London Irish.  Even if B**h had finished the season rock bottom the chances are they would have been saved by a shocking merger of the two clubs.  But here's the match report from that game: The end result of the 222nd meeting between these great West Country rivals, which if the papers are to be believed are destined to be called either the Wessex Stormers or the West Country Stormers in the very near future, was a resounding 30-20 victory for the Bristol Shoguns.

Both sides were missing key players with Catt not recovering from his hamstring injury and the absence of Perry at fullback meaning that Iain Balshaw, England's golden boy before they found Jason Robinson, and Olly Barkley covered 10 and 15.  Most of Bristol's injuries were in the pack with arguably seven first choice players at the start of the season missing.  There was no place too for Brendan Daniel or Lee Best, neither player appearing on the bench, the majority of Bristol's replacements being under 21 players.  Scott Morgan filled in for Garath Archer and Daryl Gibson was handed the captaincy duties.

Of the two teams Bath, playing with the wind behind them, came out of the blocks best but despite threatening for the first five minutes or so, during which they opted for a line out from a penalty - a decision which could have a massive impact on the final league table - Bath were penalised for going to ground from the resulting phase of play and Bristol then applied the pressure, and the first visit to the Bath half saw a penalty awarded in front of the posts after a clean line out take by Rhys Oakley in the Bath 22.

Shane Drahm made no mistake and Bristol took a 3-0 lead, too many times this season we have lost possession and conceded a score straight from the restart but on this occasion the restart was successfully reclaimed and the ball moved up field with a Contepomi chip to the Bath 22 and Bristol continued to pressurise the Bath line with Drahm and Contepomi swapping roles, as they had at Saracens.  A Bath back appeared to deliberately knock on when the ball was being moved right but the referee did not see it that way and awarded a scrum. 

Bath scored the first try of the match from Bristol’s next line out, Alex Brown won the ball but it was tapped down to Gavin Thomas who took the ball on and was on hand after several phases of play to finish the move off, Barclay who didn’t miss a single kick all afternoon easily adding the conversion. 

Twenty two minutes gone and suddenly the Bath fans were the ones with something to smile about, 3-7.

During this attack Felipe picked up an injury to his ankle that meant the return of the strapping, but he was okay to play on and what an important part he would play but more of that later…

Bristol showed that they have obviously been watching their match videos as straight from the restart they won a penalty and Shane slotted over the kick from inside the 22 to make it 6–7 and game very much on.

Controversy followed controversy now, (especially on the Bath match report) as first Elvis took the ball on and having kicked ahead, where the ball was cleanly caught and a mark awarded, ran straight into Felipe and went down like a sack of potatoes, Bath fans baying for a penalty, and secondly Bath being awarded a penalty when Phil Christophers knocked on and then kicked the ball ahead.   Barkley’s conversion attempt from just inside the Bath half making the score 6-10 with 32 minutes gone.

Bristol won the restart again and Bath took a quick line out after a raking Drahm kick to the five-yard line. Bristol charged the ball down from the attempted clearance setting up a five yard scrum and Daryl Gibson ran the ball in by the posts, the conversion was good and Bristol took the lead back 13-10 36 minutes gone.

This time Bristol knocked on from the restart, Bath got quick ball from the resulting scrum but Craig Short tackled Barkley forcing a knock on, from the Bristol scrum Drahm kicked deep to the Bath 22 and was taken out with a late tackle.  The penalty was given on the left five yards outside the 22 but Shane pushed the ball wide.

Bath used the opportunity to attack through Balshaw and then Voyce, Michael Lipman being penalised after tackling the Bath wing who had run away from his support and Barclay made no mistake with the kick to end the half honours even on the scoreboard 13 apiece.

There were no changes on either side at half time, though Felipe had obviously had a bit of attention and emerged sans bandages.

Bristol started the half well, Daryl Gibson claiming the kick off, Shane Drahm clearing it and Gus tackling Gareth Cooper just as he attempted to clear the ball won from the line out forcing him to knock on.  But Bath came back with Tindall and Maggs cutting through the Bristol midfield on a couple of occasions, Maggs receiving attention for an injury picked up after one such break.  Bath continued to pressurise but the Bristol defence seemed to have all the answers with Gus again disrupting play at the base of the scrum.

The first of the substitutions was made now with Dan Lyle making his return to the Bath team after helping the USA through their qualifying matches against Spain having sat out their trickier fixture at the memorial ground recently, Nathan Thomas the substituted player.

It was Bristol though who were next to threaten to score with Rhys Oakley particularly prominent.  Barkley was collared in the Bath 22 and Christophers chipped ahead but the pace of the ball and the dearth of dead ball area conspired against Bristol to deny Daryl Gibson the chance to add to his tally.

Bristol were not to be denied for long and after good work from David Rees and Rhys Oakley Felipe was able to open his account for the afternoon, Shane again converting to put Bristol 20-13 up as the game entered the last quarter.

Johnners claimed the restart and Bristol took the ball on and Bath conceded a penalty for holding on, a bit of back chat from Bath saw the penalty taken up to half way but the resulting penalty from half way was pulled left.

As we entered the last ten minutes of the match Bath try scorer Gavin Thomas was soon to leave the field to be replaced with youngster James Scaysbrook and Felipe was to make a trade mark interception from an attacking Bath scrum deep in the Bristol 22 and Felipe showed that he wasn’t suffering too much from his ankle injury to run the length of the pitch and score in the left corner, Shane converting from the touchline to give Bristol a 27-13 lead.

There were a few substitutions now, Richard Skuse coming on for Emi, Andy Long replacing Jonathan Humphries, Saul Nelson replacing Johnners and Martin Shaw replacing Phil Christophers.  Bristol finishing the match with a tight five comprised of players that have come through the under 21s.

Felipe and Gus both had long range drop goal attempts that went wide, Felipe’s from half way, but it was Bath who were next to score, again it was Kevin Maggs who was put through by Olly Barkley to bring Bath back to within one score and at least a bonus point but taking a leaf out of Andy Goode’s book Shane Drahm slotted a wonderful drop goal from half way to deny them, the majority of the record 20793 attendance going home happy.

The Man of the Match award went predictably to the whole team but there were some great individual performances, unusually for a derby and even more so given the significance of the result there were no sin-binnings and only fourteen penalties were awarded.