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By Ian Todd
January 17 2016

An old-fashioned score in old-fashioned conditions saw Bristol claim a first win at Lady Bay and of 2016.  10 - 16 was a fair reflection of the match, Bristol were clearly the better side but unable to move far enough ahead to be comfortable.  A losing bonus point for the hosts was claimed right at the very end after Bristol had scored with two tries from Tom Varndell and a couple of Adrian Jarvis penalties.

The weather was grey and overcast but fortunately the rain held off.  It was just as well because the pitch was, in places, already ankle deep in mud and not an ideal surface for an open running game.  On the other hand the atmosphere was so much better than playing on the other side of the river.  Well done to Nottingham for making the move.  Let us hope they are able to fulfil the plans they have to improve the ground.

Bristol kicked off the match and soon had the hosts under pressure and giving away penalties.   The last one went to touch for an attacking lineout but the throw was adjudged to be not straight.  Nottingham continued to be under pressure and conceded another penalty.  This time Bristol chose to go for the posts.  It was a long range effort and Adrian Jarvis struck it well, only to see the ball drift to the right and hit the upright.

Bristol maintained the tempo and permitted Nottingham no respite.  A powerful scrum allowed Mitch Eadie to pick up easily and slip the ball to Will Cliff who popped the ball to Tom Varndell who slid in at the corner.  In conditions that surely didn’t favour the wing, he had perhaps his best game for Bristol, strong going forward, solid in defence and looking for work.  Jarvis’ conversion attempt struck the same post as his earlier penalty.

The Nottingham restart went out on the full but, as the second quarter drew on, started to make inroads into the Bristol half before a penalty kick saw them on the edge of the Bristol 22.  Sadly for them the throw was ruled not straight.   Still Nottingham had the territory but struggled to find a way through the Bristol defence.  Attempted forward drives were hit hard and quickly, the defensive line was well disciplined and organised when the ball went wider.  Eventually a penalty was conceded and Nottingham managed to kick to touch for a five metre lineout.  It was their best chance of the half but the Bristol defence of the attempted catch-and-drive was excellent and Nottingham were penalised to let Bristol clear the danger at the close of the half.

Bristol started the second half at tremendous pace.  James Phillips claimed the kick-off, a brief drive from the pack sucked in the defence before Marc Jones burst clear.  Cliff supported well before shipping the ball on to Varndell who went in for his second unconverted try.  Despite the conditions underfoot it was a fine display of direct running and good handling under pressure.  The Nottingham support was calling for a forward pass in the move.  I wasn’t ideally placed, being in front of the pass, but if there was one it was very marginal and the officials (in contrast to the London Welsh) game were well positioned.  And that is what counted as Bristol deservedly lead 0 – 10.

Ben Mosses made a mockery of the mud with a great run that sliced the defence apart before the forwards arrived in support to drive close to the Nottingham line.  This time it was the home defence that held out strongly before being penalised.  Jarvis went for touch but the move petered out following a poor lineout.  It was Jarvis who got the visitors moving forward again with a well-executed short grubber kick.  Varndell was onto it like a shot, down on the ball, straight back to his feet and a neat pass out to his support.  Nottingham were penalised as they strove to halt the move.  Again the kick went to touch and again the lineout misfired.  Nottingham claimed the ball and cleared.

Bristol started to make a few basic errors and the shovelling along the line of poor ball unsurprisingly lead to a penalty when the ball arrived at a Bristol player at ankle height and with two Nottingham players in close attendance.  With most of the final quarter to go a kick at goal was the sensible option and Nottingham took it.  The kick sailed between the posts and it was 3 – 10.

Having worked to put Bristol under pressure and then taken the points on offer the hosts then promptly gave away a penalty.  Taking a leaf from Nottingham’s book Jarvis went for the posts and wiped out their effort from just moments before.  Shortly after he slotted another to make it 3 – 16.

A margin that proved significant with the last move of the game.  A kick ahead from Bristol had no chase behind it.  The team were tired after a slog in the mud but earlier kicks had been well followed up, with David Lemi putting in a couple of superbly timed and very hard hits out on his wing and others performing similarly.  This one was an aimless punt ahead that gave the Nottingham recipient plenty of time to build up his speed and crash into a lethargic Bristol defence.  Replacement Matthew Morgan did well to stop the rampaging Nottingham No. 8 but the support was up quickly and Nottingham were over right beneath the posts.  The conversion at the very death made the final score 10 – 16.


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