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Season review 2017/18 - part two

We take a look back at the GKIPA Championship winning 2017/18 campaign, with part two of our season review - featuring the try of the season, Signed-up Saturday and a crucial win at Vallis Way.


November

A crowd of nearly 3,000 enjoyed an 11-try charity clash between Bristol United and UK Armed Forces, in support of the Royal British Legion at the start of November.

A United side, featuring eight players from the Bristol Combination and three from the Academy U18s, squandered a 14-point half-time lead to slip to a 42-26 defeat at Ashton Gate.

Off the field, highly-rated fly half Callum Sheedy became the latest exciting young talent to commit his future to the club, signing a contract until 2020 – while ten days later, fellow academy graduate, Joe Joyce followed suit, committing his future until 2020.

Bristol United versus UK Armed Forces.
Luke Morahan scores against Yorkshire Carnegie.

When the league campaign resumed, Bristol Rugby racked up fifty points for the second time this season as they brushed aside Rotherham Titans in an eight-try 55-10 demolition at Ashton Gate.

And the points continued to flow in Yorkshire the following Friday, as two tries from Luke Morahan and a faultless kicking display from Ian Madigan inspired Lam’s side to a ruthless bonus-point win over Carnegie at Headingley.

Nottingham were the next to feel the force of the Bristol juggernaut, as braces from Dan Thomas and Rhodri Williams inspired a 50-21 demolition at Ashton Gate.


December

As the festive period got under way, Alapati Leiua’s 78th-minute try sealed an all-important bonus point at Castle Park, as Bristol Rugby stormed to a 38-18 win over a gritty Doncaster Knights side.

In the British & Irish Cup, it was a second successive defeat for Bristol, as Leinster ‘A’ withstood a late fightback to take the spoils in a high-scoring affair at Ashton Gate. A 50-15 defeat in Donnybrook the following Friday kept Bristol winless in the competition.

But it was back to winning ways with a bang in the GKIPA Championship, as the league leaders put in a breathtaking attacking performance to demolish sixth-placed Cornish Pirates in front of a bumper crowd at Ashton Gate. The game featured the club’s eventual try of the season, as Mat Protheroe sprinted in from 70 metres.

Alapati Leiua scores late on against Doncaster Knights.
Protheroe dives over to score try of the season.

And supporters were treated to a late Christmas present when powerful midfield duo Will Hurrell and Jack Tovey penned new deals at the club.

After an early scare at Richmond at the tail-end of December, Bristol scored 28 unanswered points in 19 second-half minutes to record a 12th successive bonus-point win in the GKIPA Championship. Jordan Williams completed his second league hat trick of the season, while Jordan Crane, Steven Luatua and Mat Protheroe all crossed.


January

There was good news and then bad news for Academy wing, Aaron Chapman, who was named in a 32-man England U20 Elite Player Squad before being ruled out for the season with an Achilles injury.

It was then back to British & Irish Cup action, as Bristol recorded their first win in the competition against Doncaster Knights at Castle Park. Tom Varndell and Nick Haining made try-scoring returns from injury in a 37-32 bonus-point victory.

A second win followed, with a 68-0 drubbing of Cardiff Blues Premiership Select 68-0 in the final pool clash of the competition.

The main excitement was reserved for the following day, as #SignedUpSaturday arrived, with Bristol announcing the signing of nine new players ahead of the 2018/19 season - John Afoa, Harry Thacker, Jake Heenan, Aly Muldowney, Shaun Malton, Nic Stirzaker, Yann Thomas, Jordan Lay and Tiff Eden.

The nine signings announced on Signed-up Saturday.
Nich Haining goes over against Bedford Blues.

This was preceded by four of the club’s brightest prospects committing their long-term futures to the club, as James Dun, Aaron Chapman, Will Capon and Charlie Powell agreed long-term deals.

Samoan international James Lay joined on a two-month loan agreement to help with injury problems in the front row.

In the final action of the month, Nick Haining struck late as Bristol Rugby came from behind to beat Bedford Blues 18-13 in a fiercely contested GKIPA Championship clash at Ashton Gate on Sunday.


February

In what turned out to be the biggest game of the season, Jordan Williams inspired a second-half comeback, as Bristol Rugby overcame a half-time deficit to edge Ealing Trailfinders 28-27 at Vallis Way and extend their lead at the top of the GKIPA Championship to 13 points.

The full-back struck twice in the second period as Pat Lam’s side fought back to seal a bonus-point win in West London and maintain their unbeaten league record, while condemning Ealing to a first home defeat of the season.

And the momentum continued the next week with a 16th successive league win of the season - an emphatic nine-try 15-55 victory over London Scottish at Richmond Athletic Ground.

Sam Jeffries scores again Ealing at Vallis Way.
Tusi Pisi touches down at Richmond Athletic Ground.