By Dan McNamara, UBRFC journalist and third year English student
Bristol’s 1st XV battled their way to a 23-5 victory against local rivals UWE in front of a boisterous crowd at Coombe Dingle.
The game began in a bruising fashion, with both sides exchanging some heavy blows as they sought to break the deadlock. Apart from a scything break from winger Ollie Bluck, Bristol could not create many attacking opportunities, with UWE beginning to apply pressure and force Bristol back towards their line. A powerful maul from the visitors resulted in the ball over the try line, only for it to be held up by Bristol’s Ben Solomon.
A reminder of the starting XV to take on UWE this evening. Everything before now has been building towards this. This is our time. 6pm at Dingle. Bear witness. #WeAreBristol @BristolUniSport @Bristol_SU @UWERUGBY @TheSUatUWE pic.twitter.com/Lciip20ev0— UBRFC (@UniBristolRFC) October 3, 2018
The home side kept UWE out, and got the game’s first score; a penalty from fly-half Ewan Evans from around 35m out. However, handling errors from the host’s backline restricted any attacking fluency in their play. UWE continued to probe Bristol’s defence but, thanks to their imperious forward pack, spearheaded by back-rower Owain Ellis and second-rower Hywel Rose, they fought off any pressure that came their way.
The battle was very much being fought off the pitch as well as on it. A seven or eight hundred strong crowd on the side-line, one of the biggest Coombe Dingle has seen in many years, created a fierce and lively atmosphere. Although the crowd was largely Bristol fans, the vocal UWE support played their part in a tense first half.
Driven on by the fans, Bristol finally began to create some real chances, resulting in the game’s first try from debutant Ben Sykes. As the home side pressed UWE’s try line, the scrum-half showed quick thinking to pick and go from a ruck and edge over the line. The try was not converted but, with the score at 8-0 at the half hour mark, Bristol began to crank up the intensity. The home side’s scrum providing the platform, a fast break and slick offload from Evans set up centre Ali Greig to barge over the line for Bristol’s second try. This took Bristol into half-time with a 15-0 lead.
The early stages of the second half were fairly even and, despite Bristol dominating possession, they were not able to capitalise on their momentum from the first forty minutes. However, Bristol’s brutal defence more than compensated for the shortcomings of their offence. Whether it was the countless turnovers for man of the match Owain Ellis, or the big hits coming in from captain Ollie Lyons and many of the other forwards, UWE rarely ventured into Bristol’s 22 during this period. Bristol eventually channelled this power into their attack, with Lyons crashing his way over the line to take the score up to 20-0 around the hour mark.
Bristol stretched the lead further to 23 points following a penalty from debutant Will Sharp, as the home side looked to pull away from the battling visitors. UWE did not give up however, and a build-up of late pressure forced an opening in the strong Bristol defence. Smooth hands from the UWE backline exploited an overlap and sent their winger over in the corner. This proved too little too late, with Bristol ending as 23-5 victors and beginning their BUCS South A campaign in convincing fashion. Bristol’s next fixture is against another local rival, Bath, facing their 2nd XV away on 10 October.
Featured image: Smifsports Photography
Were you part of the record crowd at Coombe Dingle last week? Let us know what you thought of the performance!