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By Ian Todd
September 21 2015

After the disappointing season opener Bristol claimed a home win after a solid away performance.   The win was far from solid though, with the visitors claiming a try bonus point of their own.  Perhaps worse was the size of the crowd at just over five and a half thousand.  Was it really as big as that?  However many there were, the defensive performance will have had the alarm bells ringing even though Bristol managed six tries and played ruthlessly at the final whistle.

Bristol kicked off the game in overcast conditions.  The kick was well taken by Nottingham and Bristol were penalised by the rather whistle-happy referee.  Nottingham made little of the opportunity when Bristol ran the ball straight back at them.  However the penalties continued to be awarded to the visitors and two sent to touch in the left hand corner put Bristol under pressure.  A catch and drive move resulted and the Nottingham pack drove very slowly over the Bristol line.  It was slightly odd, the Nottingham pack at a slow walking pace and the Bristol defence simply giving way.   Whatever was going on, Cooper was able to flop over for the most straightforward of tries.  The conversion made it 0 – 7 with just a few minutes played.

The restart was superbly claimed by Tom Varndell, who put in a good shift all afternoon, however Bristol were unable to make much of it and were turned over.  Fortunately Nottingham were then penalised and Bristol elected to scrum.  It was a sensible choice that went horribly wrong after initially looking good.  The pack drove for the line only to be held up.  The ball was then lost forward and Skelcey raced away down the left wing, outpacing the defence, standing up fullback Wallace (who had no help at all), and in by the posts for a converted try.

Bristol hit back virtually from the restart.  Ben Mosses was tackled high and the penalty was sent to touch.  The pack drove from the lineout and Olly Robinson did the honours in a near replay of Nottingham’s earlier score.  Nottingham strove to get back at Bristol but a hugely obvious knock-on halted the momentum.  Hugely obvious to everyone except the officials apparently.  Shortly thereafter the visitors were penalised and Gavin Henson made a fantastic touch with his kick.  The lineout was a good one and the ball was shipped out to Henson who put in a neat kick against the grain, Jack Tovey sprinted onto the ball and was in for his second try in two games and Henson’s conversion equalised the score.

Nottingham’s troubles were compounded when the restart went out on the full and Bristol swept forward with some excellent lines of running and Mosses sliced in for a converted try that took Bristol in front for the first time in the match.  The visiting team were definitely wobbling at this point and yet another penalty was despatched to the corner.  The ball was whipped along the line only for the hand of Rayner to block the pass.  It was a one handed effort that I always think should be given as a deliberate knock-on.  This time it was given that way and, the referee having just told the Nottingham captain that the next offence would be a yellow, Rayner was given a ten minute rest.  Bristol took full advantage when Mitch Eadie bullied his way over for an unconverted try.

I actually had written H/T in my notes but Bristol manged to make mess of things.  First Eadie blotted his copybook by giving away a soft penalty right in front of the Bristol posts and Nottingham went for touch.  The initial defence looked good before running out of numbers out wide to let Hakalo in for an unconverted try at the close of the half.  I don’t know quite what was wrong with the wide defence, it seemed to drift across and then leave a huge gap with an isolated defender exposed with space to either side.  Space that was well exploited on three occasions.  Strange, last season we had a blitz defence with a bit of drifting thrown in to make it a rather clumsy chimera.  This season we seem to be drifting whilst leaving half the defence inside.  This seems an area ripe for some specialist coaching to me.  It did mean that Nottingham closed the gap but left Bristol, unusually, still in front at half-time.

Penalties continued to come thick and fast in the second half and Henson put in another excellent long touchfinder.  The pack drove well and Robinson claimed his second to extend the Bristol lead.  Nottingham obviously knew the Bristol defence was vulnerable and continued to press, only to be frustrated by a lineout that had started to malfunction badly.  After losing two on the trot they finally managed to claim one, although the throw looked far from straight.  A couple of reset scrums followed with the referee giving the front rows the benefit of his extensive experience in that role.  He then started to change the timing of the engagement sequence and the position of the front rows and of course we saw collapses and a penalty against Bristol (although the absence of correct binding from the Nottingham prop was equally worthy of a penalty).  Nottingham took their opportunity well as the Bristol defence again opened up out wide to let in Langley for the bonus point try.

With things too close for comfort Bristol wisely chose to go for the points when Nottingham were penalised following another poor lineout and Henson obliged.  Bristol were reduced to 14 men when Jack Tovey was sin-binned for the second time in two matches.  He tackled hard and drove his man up.  The question was did he take him beyond the horizontal and did he then control how he reached the ground?  My take was that the tackled player was certainly horizontal, people always say ‘beyond the horizontal’ but is horizontal just as bad?  There was an effort to control the return to ground but was it enough?  The player certainly didn’t react well.  The crowd thought it wasn’t a yellow.  The referee and I disagreed.  Nottingham went for touch from the resulting penalty and once again drove over for a converted try.  This was now dangerously close at 36 – 31 and gave the visitors a losing bonus point.

Bristol stormed back to prevent Nottingham gaining anything from the match.  They went close to the opposition line and Nottingham were penalised.  Henson struck to ease any jitters.  There was still time on the clock and Bristol decided to send another penalty to touch.  The pack put in an initial shove that pulled in the defence before a neat pass picked out Charlie Amesbury at the charge who swept through a gap on a beautifully timed run to score by the posts to leave the final score at a slightly  flattering 46 -31.


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21/09/2015 09:08
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2015:10:19:07:52:13 by SenorJuan.

Graham_U (IP Logged)
21/09/2015 13:39
Good write up SJ, I pretty much agree with all your details. Do you have a radio link to the ref? You seem to know more details about his communication than I would assume possible from the stands.


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