After a week of wild weather in South West England, the sun appeared just in time for Bristol Rugby vs Jersey Reds. This appeared to galvanise the home side as they made an all-action start. However the visitors came back strongly, notching four tries in the first half. This was a lead that would never be recovered as Ashton Gate witnessed Jersey beat Bristol 38-34.
Editor James Barker attended the match for Last Word on Rugby; here is his write up of the game.
The view from the press box at Ashton Gate. Image credit: James Barker
Bristol Rugby 34 Jersey Reds 38
Whilst he was only on the pitch for eight minutes, All Black Steven Luatua opened the scoring of the back of a rolling maul. It is this type of international quality that sets Bristol head and shoulders above the rest of this league. Ireland fly half Ian Madigan also weighed in with an outstanding kick to the corner.
However when Jersey sparked into life they made it difficult for their hosts. A sloppy pass allowed the channel islanders to gather in the Bristol 22, then work an overlap to send Scott Van Breda over unopposed to level at 7-7. This was only the start as Jersey added the more first half tries from Kieran Hardy, Jerry Sexton and Van Breda again.
Bristol were unable to hit back early in the second hand, as the Jersey scrum got on top whilst under pressure. This frustrated the Ashton Gate crowd and it got worse when Tusi Pisi handed the ball straight to Tom Pincus for available simple intercept run in. This left the score at 20-35 and Brendon Cope added another penalty for 20-38.
It took until the 68th minute for Bristol to respond and a neat lineout move gave Rhodri Williams the chance to barge over and narrow the deficit to 11 points. This was still too much for Bristol to recover from, with scrum and lineout errors hindering their ability to capitalise on territory. Bristol did grab two bonus points from this match at the death, as Sam Jeffries scored their fourth try but it was not enough.
— GK IPA Championship (@Champrugby) March 4, 2018
Pat Lam Post-Match Comments
Bristol’s Director of Rugby gives little away physically during matches, but by the end of this clash he was animated in the stands, and firm in the post-match press conference.
Speaking to the media after the match, Lam was not even consoled by the two bonus points earned: “They’ll come in handy but that’s all just consolation really. We know we shouldn’t have lost that game, and we’ve got to go back and look at our decision making”.
His main message was about what Bristol can take from their first league defeat of the season: “What we’ve got to do is take on board the learnings. What disappointed us the most was the 38 points, how many of those we actually handed to them on a plate”.
“A lot of execution issues, a lot of people not doing their jobs”.
Pat Lam, Bristol director of rugby
Lam also praised Jersey, saying: “First thing we need to do is acknowledge Jersey. We spoke about it after watching Scotland knock England over and if any of the Championship teams were watching that, that’s about wanting a game and committing at breakdowns and collisions”.
Asked if the defeat was a monkey off Bristol’s back, Lam replied: “Someone mentioned to me everyone has their one game, well I didn’t want a one game. I don’t accept that, but it’s happened so we have to accept that, but I’m still annoyed and frustrated at the way it happened”.
Lam added: “Nothing is going to change as far as our process of reviewing the game and how we go about that. I think the biggest thing is about putting the work in, in relation to the learnings that we’ve got out of this game”.
Bristol Still on Course for Promotion
Despite this setback, Bristol are still 15 points clear at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship with five matches to go. Second placed Ealing Trailfinders do have a game in hand, but Bristol are still on course for promotion. They did not set a club record 17th consecutive win and won’t complete a perfect season, but there is still much to cheer at Ashton Gate. Premiership Rugby is almost certain to return.
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