Bristol Rugby 23 London Welsh 6
Bristol Secure an impressive 23-6 win at home to London Welsh.
Early play was inconclusive, but the award of a free kick to Welsh allowed the visiting team to put some structure on the game. The Bristol defence was equal to the task and forced a turnover that James Merriman seized upon to take things back to Welsh. Sadly Bristol were unable to hold on to possession but a Welsh clearance kick went out on the full to give Bristol a good attacking position. Bristol pressured the Welsh defence, with the pack dominating their opposite numbers. George Watkins and Jack Tovey failed to make much progress when the ball went out wide. Fortunately the referee was playing advantage for an earlier infringement. An advantage that Bristol made count when the initial drive was held agonizingly short before Mariano Sambucetti was adjudged to have touched down. Adrian Jarvis converted for a 7 - 0 lead.
London Welsh tried to hit back swiftly from this setback, and the Bristol defence fell apart in the face of quick attacking play and it seemed as if Sampson had to score but he managed to drop the ball over the line. Disappointed, Welsh maintained the pressure on the Bristol line and Ross narrowed the gap to four points with a well taken penalty at the end of the first quarter. Bristol seemed eager to move further ahead but failed to make the most of two overlaps as Tovey and then Anthony Elliott advanced into the line. Jarvis steadied things with a nicely taken drop goal that moved Bristol to 10 - 3. The forwards were dominant as they drove the ball forward, but the Welsh defence was well able to contain the attacks when the ball was moved along the back line. London Welsh were able to counterattack when a Bristol move broke down and the defence was left floundering, before Watkins, tracking back, put in a brilliant covering tackle that forced a knock-on with the try-line begging.
The pace and guile of the Welsh backs was clear for all to see and Bristol struggled to suppress the attacking threat as the half drew to its close. Finally the hard-pressed defence conceded a penalty chance and Ross obliged by taking his team back within four points. Welsh kept up the pressure for the remaining time but the hosts managed to hold on to the end of the half.
Unusually Bristol were swiftly into their stride in the second half. Watkins was released on a good break before the support piled in. Richard Bolt popped the ball out to Junior Fatialofa who shrugged off the tackle to touch down in the corner. Jarvis made light work of the difficult conversion and Bristol had extended the lead to 17 - 6. Still, Bristol continued to look vulnerable to the Welsh backs and once again the defence was sliced apart with only desperate last ditch tackling keeping the visiting side out. Claasens appeared to have broken through but was penalised just short of the line to let Bristol off the hook. Welsh remained patient and it seemed only a matter of time before the defence was breached. However, the merest hint of a knock-on was spotted by the referee and Bristol had escaped for the moment.
The pack, putting in perhaps the best performance of the season, did their best to make the most of this reprieve and the scrummage was immense as the opposition were shoved backwards. Unluckily Bristol failed to hold on to possession and Welsh were able to move forward again. Bristol then received another let off when Ross was both wide and short of the mark from a penalty kick. Soon it appeared that Welsh would finally score the try that had so far eluded them but Tovey made a great tackle to halt both the move and win a penalty. Good tactical kicking from Jarvis pinned Welsh back in their own half, but the visitors had the confidence that their attacking verve would eventually be rewarded. Despite this, perhaps justified confidence, play broke up in a succession of errors from both teams. Welsh had the worst of things when a piece of foolish back-chat saw the referee march them back a further ten metres from a penalty on the Bristol 22. Jarvis compounded the punishment by kicking Bristol down to the Welsh 22. Amazingly they committed the same sin just a few minutes later.
The Bristol pack continued to hold the upper hand and the catch-and-drive could only be halted by pulling down the maul. The referee might well have shown a yellow card for this offence but in any event Jarvis edged Bristol a further three points ahead with another well-struck kick. London Welsh strove to get back into the Bristol half to salvage an unlikely bonus point but good defence from Tovey and Merriman forced yet another penalty for Jarvis to send to touch. The Welsh forwards continued to have no answer to the power of the Bristol pack and they were duly penalised to allow Jarvis to finish the points scoring as Bristol ran out jubilant 23 - 6 winners.