By Eddie McAteer, Investigations Editor
On a bitterly cold Wednesday night that would see a spate of heaters going on across the student population, a rugby game was taking place. In spite of the temperature, the men’s 1st XV took to the Coombe Dingle fields for the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ against Cardiff’s 2nd team.
After getting over the shock of paying for entry to the 4G pitch, the Coombe Dingle faithful were treated to a fine showing by the home team. They dispatched the visitors from across the Bristol channel with a strong attacking performance over the course of 80 minutes.
The referee’s whistle characterised much of the opening exchanges, with both teams conceding penalties and Cardiff even losing one of their wingers to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on.
Bristol’s numerical advantage soon showed as the forwards got a strong shove on to put their captain Sam Hill-Cousins over and open the scoring.
Bristol then put themselves under pressure by attempting to run it back from the kick off, only to lose the ball and concede in the corner. Fortunately, the conversion was missed, leaving the home side a slender two-point lead.
The lead didn’t last long. Straight from the next kick off, a high tackle put Bristol under pressure once again and allowed Cardiff the territory they needed to cross the whitewash for a second time. Just like the first try, however, the conversion was missed and the Maroons found themselves a mere three points behind.
Going behind seemed to wake the home side up and they made excellent use of their dominant pack to score in the corner. Bristol’s kicking was considerably better than Cardiff’s and the converted try helped them to restore a four-point margin.
Instead of attempting to run it back from this kick off, they cleared long before gaining territory through some marauding forward’s play. This set up the platform for a sublime pass by fly half Finlay Campbell to put Jonny Haynes in to score the team’s third try.
With Bristol starting to gain the ascendancy, the referee’s whistle reared its head once again to stifle their dominance. A succession of Cardiff penalties eventually led to them converting from the tee and closing the score to 19-13.
This proved to be the last time the visiting side were to get this close. The Maroons began to cut loose and went into the changing rooms 13 points to the good thanks to a converted Cameron Kinross try.
There was an attempt at a half time rendition of ‘Silent Night’ by supporting members, but the real noise came as the team took to the pitch for the second half. Roared on by the tunnel of sports fleeces, Bristol returned to the now freezing pitch with a level of intent that characterised much of their second half.
Despite conceding from a clever lineout move, Bristol showed their class with a strong reaction, particularly from the forwards, as Joe Paden crossed the line in response.
It sounds cliché, but the home side really had to earn the right to go wide in this game after a couple of setbacks. With the forwards starting to break tackle after tackle and the backs beginning to purr in attack, it was the team’s defence that truly turned the tide of the game.
The tit for tat try scoring was put to an end when the Maroons put in some incredible defensive sets on their own line and completely shut the visitors out. They then followed that up with what was arguably the try of the game. A gorgeous grubber from Campbell set off a race to the whitewash which was won by Charlie Beckett to put the home side 20 points in front of their rivals.
Inevitably, Cardiff managed to get one back, but Bristol finished with a flourish. A fantastic line by their captain combined with a well-timed pass from Henry Bedson to put Kinross over for his second of the game.
This dominant performance earned Bristol a 45-23 victory and sees them bounce back from defeat at Hartpury the week before. When they return to action on the 14th January, the Maroons face a trip to take on Oxford 1s in the 1876 game.
They will have four league games to finish the season strongly after a mixed bag so far, with another home fixture against Exeter 3rd team on the 25th January. They will surely be hoping for a big post-exam crowd to cheer them on at home.
Featured image: Eddie McAteer