Fresh off a pre-season victory against Durham, Bath’s men’s 1XV put one over on local rivals Bristol in a 35-11 victory on Wednesday afternoon. The affair was full blooded and entertaining but the first half was defined by a series of frustrating errors from both sides. Early penalties were exchanged but a number of attacks were spurned through little knock-ons and turnovers in crucial areas of the pitch. Bath did get the first try though; it came from a break down the left hand side from winger George Drury who made it to the 5 metre line before being turned over by the Bristol defence. However, Drury then went on to charge down the clearance box kick and was simply left to gather and fall over the line for the try, converting to make the score 10-3.
After the try the theme of the first half continued with breaks being made and opportunities being missed, neither side able to get any significant fluency to their game. Bristol were able to get a try back before the break with winger Jake Jones beating three players then throwing an offload to number 8 Max Cresswell who went in under the posts leaving the score 10-8 at half time.
The second half saw Bath come out with an invigorated sense of purpose upping their physicality levels and putting in some determined defence. An early yellow card for Drury could have put Bristol on top but the home side responded with some blistering attacking play. Full back Marcus Beer made a strong break from the halfway line before being brought down inside Bristol’s 22. Some forceful forward play gave the backs a platform and with some slick hands allowed Beer to score in the far corner.
Not to be outdone Bristol came back and for 10-15 minutes solidly attacked Bath’s line. Wave after wave of attacks came but the boys in blue stood resolutely. A number of times Bristol kicked in behind putting pressure on the Bath back three who did a fantastic job of returning the play. Pressure at the breakdown resulted in penalties at crucial times with the back row combining their strong ball carrying with some outstanding turnovers. ‘Keep working, we’ll get one eventually’ was the cry from the Bristol pack but Bath were in no mind to let their visitors near the try line. Pressure at the scrum with 15 minutes to go led to the Bristol fly half spooning a kick out on the full, met with ironic cheers from the Bath support. From the resulting lineout Bath put together a strong maul which split in two separate parts. With the Bristol defence lost as to who the ball carrier was; prop Greg Palmer scampered through a huge gap which had opened up in front of him, before diving over the line to celebrate a score which won the game.
The closing stages saw Bristol begin to crumble and Bath stamped their superiority over the away side. At scrum time the opposing pack went nowhere but back, to the cheers of Bath fans, resulting in a penalty that Drury used to edge Bath further in front. Some attempted expansive play from Bristol’s backs in their own 22 saw a knock on; this gave the home team a platform which resulted in a last play try for replacement Alex Humphreys which secured the bonus point victory. With Hartpury to come next week, Bath will be very happy with a performance that wasn’t perfect but showed the power and precision that their game can produce.