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By Tom Paine
April 3 2018

In difficult conditions Bristol bounced back from a first league defeat to beat a Rotherham side that had suffered a cruel last second away loss to second place Ealing.  A six-nil lead with all the territory and the wind behind them looked far from sufficient but Bristol took control of the second half and were deserved winners.

Bristol kicked off playing with the wind blowing snow straight down the pitch.  Difficult conditions making it tough to even see how play was over the other side of the pitch.  Even tougher to play in.  Bristol were awarded an early penalty and Ian Madigan ensured his side were three-nil up with scarcely a minute played.  Sloppy play then allowed Roth to drive hard at the Bristol line, so hard, in fact, that it seemed Roth drove over the dead-ball line to let the visitors off the hook.  A long drop-out put Rotherham right back in their own half.  Bristol kept the hosts under pressure but were unable to make a clear breakthrough.  Finally Bristol knocked-on to give Roth a chance to clear but sadly the ball was then kicked dead to enable Bristol to maintain their dominance of possession and territory.  The visitors hammered away for phase after phase, edging ever closer to the line.  Great defence from the Titans held the attack at bay and when the referee blew for a penalty after a long advantage it was no surprise to see Bristol take the points on offer to go 0 – 6 in front.  Roth had a chance to narrow the half-time gap but Ryan’s penalty effort faded away.

Bristol had the lion’s share of possession in the first half but would a six point lead be enough when playing into the blizzard?  In fact the second half got under way beneath blue skies (although the snow returned later) and play was initially very scrappy from both teams before a quickly taken penalty wrong-footed the Rotherham defence and allowed Bristol to take play up to the Roth 22.  A half-break from Jordan Crane took play on and Bristol continued to press, the ball went along the backline and Ryan Edwards dotted down for the first try of the game.  Madigan was off-target with his conversion but Bristol were 0 – 11 in front.  Inevitably they then gave away a foolish penalty that gave Roth a five metre lineout but fortunately were able to keep the hosts at bay.  The territorial position was too good to go to waste and when Bristol were penalised a well struck penalty made it 3 – 11.  Bristol worked patiently back into the Roth half, but still the defence was solid, making Bristol work hard for territory, giving little away.  A penalty went Bristol’s way and Madigan edged Bristol further in front.  Bristol now seemed to have the measure of the both Roth and the conditions and kept up the pressure.  Roth strayed offside and again Madigan took the points.  His lovely kick ahead shortly afterwards opened up the defensive line and Luke Morahan finished well for a try just before full-time.  Madigan’s conversion capped a masterclass in how to control a game in atrocious conditions and made the final score 3 – 24.

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