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Season review 2017/18 - part one

We take a look back at the GKIPA Championship winning 2017/18 campaign, with part one of our season review - featuring Lam's arrival, an incoming All Black and four wins from four.


July

After being announced as the club’s new head coach in November 2016, Pat Lam was introduced to the media and supporters at Ashton Gate, as he laid out the blueprint for his reign: ‘to inspire the community through rugby success.’

The players didn’t take long to buy into the vision, marking Mandela Day by supporting Bristol City Council’s Clean Streets campaign, picking up litter in Millennium Square.

Pat Lam meets the media at Ashton Gate.
Players take part in a litter pick in Millennium Square.

August

Bristol kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 19-33 defeat to Harlequins in an entertaining affair at Cleve RFC. Pat Lam’s side scored three tries as Sam Jeffries, Ross McMillan and Reiss Cullen went over for the home side, while there was also a debut for 17-year-old Bristol Grammar School student Charlie Powell.

The club was delighted to reveal that All Black Charles Piutau has agreed terms to join ahead of the 2018/19 season. In one of the biggest coups in the club’s history, the 25-year-old utility back agreed a two-year deal from Ulster, joining his brother, Siale in the West Country.

In their second pre-season outing, a strong second half fightback wasn’t quite enough for Bristol, who fell to a narrow pre-season defeat to Bath, going down 31-34.

Charles Piutau will arrive ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Mat Protheroe in action against Quins.
Aaron Chapman crosses against Bath.

Tom Varndell, Aaron Chapman, Jordan Williams, Dan Thomas and debutant Luke Morahan all went over for Bristol at the Clifton RFC training base.

The following week, a last-gasp Scarlets try saw them snatch victory the Clifton RFC training base, despite Mat Protheroe’s hat-trick and Dan Thomas’ close-range score.

Bristol rounded off their pre-season preparations with a hard-fought 24-14 defeat at the hands of Connacht. David Lemi and Mat Protheroe scored either side of half-time at the Galway Sports Ground.


September

Bristol Rugby kicked off the new GKIPA Championship season with a hard-fought 26-15 victory over Hartpury at a rain-soaked Ashton Gate, as tries from Luke Morahan and Max Crumpton - together with 16 points from the boot of Ian Madigan - sealed victory for Pat Lam’s side, who had trailed 7-8 at half time.

The following week, Bristol made it two wins from two as David Lemi’s hat-trick helped record a bonus-point victory over Cornish Pirates at Mennaye Field.

Tighthead prop Alex Giltrow signed a professional contract with Bristol Rugby until the end of the 2017/18 campaign following a successful trial period.

Luke Morahan take son the Hartpury defence.
David Lemi scores one of three tries against Cornish Pirates.

After two near misses, Bristol hit top gear against Richmond as Max Crumpton’s four tries saw Bristol thrash Richmond 50-5 at Ashton Gate.

And Lam’s side signed off September with a nine-try 61-38 victory over Bedford Blues at an action-packed Goldington Road. A hat trick from Jordan Williams, a brace for Jason Harris-Wright and further scores from Jack Lam, Sam Jeffries, Dan Thomas and Jack O’Connell saw the visitors rack up their highest ever score at Bedford and seal a third successive bonus-point win.


October

Rhodri Williams struck in the dying stages as Bristol Rugby left it late to snatch a 32-23 victory over Ealing Trailfinders and claim top spot in the Greene King IPA Championship.

Williams scorched over on 76 minutes after a dazzling break and offload from replacement Mat Protheroe had laid it on a plate for the scrum half, while Billy Searle’s angled penalty on the stroke of full-time ensured the visitors would leave Ashton Gate empty-handed.

Six days later, Tom Varndell scored Bristol Rugby’s fourth hat trick of the season as Pat Lam’s side shrugged off a spirited London Scottish to claim a fifth successive bonus point win in the Greene King IPA Championship.

Bristol Rugby’s commitment to developing homegrown talent continued as scrum-half Andy Uren agreed a new contract, while a host of the club’s youngsters played their part as Bristol United kicked off their British and Irish Cup campaign with a commanding 31-7 victory over Cardiff Blues Premiership Select at Sardis Road. Aaron Chapman scored a fine brace on debut.

Rhodri Williams scores a late winner against Ealing.
Steven Luatua touches down at Jersey.

The first defeat of the season arrived the following week, as Doncaster Knights beat a young Bristol side 22-33 at Ashton Gate, in a match that featured seven tries and four yellow cards.

But Pat Lam’s side got back to winning ways in Jersey, as Rhodri Williams’ six-minute hat-trick inspired a 36-17 win at Stade Santander International. Steven Luatua crossed twice in a man of the match display.