Bristol Rugby: Liam Middleton praises the attitude of Rhys Lawrence and Tom Slater
LIAM Middleton has praised the attitude shown by Tom Slater and Rhys Lawrence during a largely frustrating play-off campaign for the Welsh duo.
Hooker Lawrence had not featured for Bristol in the play-offs until replacing Jason Harris-Wright 58 minutes into Saturday's 39-10 win over Doncaster, while Slater had made only two cameo appearances from the bench before his man-of-the-match performance at the weekend.
But the professionalism shown by the pair off the field has not gone unnoticed by head coach Middleton, who admitted the Welshmen are now firmly in his thoughts for Bristol's two-legged semi-final against Cornish Pirates.
"I'll pick out Tom Slater and Rhys Lawrence – two players who have been positive all the way through when they've not been getting a run of games," said Middleton.
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"Then, when they get their chance, they take it – and that's what you ask of players: that they train well, stay positive when they're not being picked, but take their chance when they get it. I think that's what those two guys did on Saturday.
"They are very good Championship players and would probably start in every other team in the league.
"Here, they are not getting a good run of games, but you expect guys to step into the shirt and perform – and that positive attitude they bring sums up the kind of guys I want at Bristol. As many of those that we can get, the better."
Slater set up Bristol's opening two tries on Saturday, putting the first on a plate for Luke Eves and launching the move that led to Will Helu grabbing the second with a smart tap-and-go.
He also tested Doncaster throughout with a series of half-breaks and surges that belied the fact he had not started a game since February 24.
"That's why we signed him and that's why he'll stay with us next season," said Middleton.
"He's sat on the bench for a few weeks now, always stayed positive, always trained well and he's come in and pulled off a good performance.
"He's kept his head down and that performance was how I want my scrum-half to play.
"It will now be a selection dilemma for the semi-final, as, I'd say, will another two or three positions. Some guys have really put their hands up."
Bristol have confirmed that the first leg of their semi-final against Cornish Pirates will take place in Penzance on Monday, May 7 with a 12.05pm kick-off. The second leg will be played at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday, May 13, with a 12.45pm kick-off.