Bristol Rugby's Liam Middleton warns the rest of the Championship: We will get better and better
LIAM Middleton has sent an ominous message to the rest of the Championship – by claiming his Bristol team can play even better than they did at Bedford.
Bristol delivered their best performance of the season as they beat second-placed Bedford 18-6 on Saturday, denying their hosts a try and dominating every facet of play.
But head coach Middleton believes his players are capable of an even better performance – and feels they are still to peak this season.
He said: “Our reviews this week have actually focused on where we’ve got to get better.
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“I think it’s always a nice position to do that on the back of a good performance. Our defence was outstanding – they didn’t really breach us apart from a few tap penalties – and to hold Bedford to no tries on their home ground was fantastic.
“But we’ve looked at the game and said ‘this can be better’ – and the guys have worked on that in training this week, which just shows their attitude to improve.
“There were some opportunities left on that park – potentially another two to three tries – which is encouraging but also gives us something to practice.
“I do maintain that we’re going to click at the right time – I do think our best rugby is still to come.”
That said, Middleton did encourage his players to revel in the joy of becoming the only team other than Newcastle to beat Bedford at Goldington Road this season – and the first to deny them a try there since Bristol did it last season.
However, when it came to Tuesday morning, the focus switched firmly toward Friday’s home game with third-placed Nottingham – a team Bristol believe they can catch in the Championship table.
“We spent Monday reviewing the game in three separate meetings and what I said to the guys was that we need to soak up a win like that,” said Middleton.
“It’s a tough season, it’s a hugely competitive competition; you lose games, you win games – and we won a really important game and really enjoyed it. But by Tuesday morning, it was a case of ‘Bedford’s done, we’ve got to look forward’. If you rest too long on your laurels, you get stung in this competition.
“I think what we established from the review of the Bedford game is that there is more in us. The effort was exceptional – I can’t say that I could ask for much more effort from the guys – but we could tidy up on a couple of areas of the game. With the same level of effort, we’re a dangerous team.”
Bristol have reported no fresh injury concerns from the Bedford game, while long-term casualties Roy Winters and Iain Grieve are now back in full training. They are likely to come into contention for next week’s trip to Moseley.
“The game was very physical – the effort from the players for 80 minutes was outstanding,” said Middleton.
“We made a huge amount of tackles in the game, didn’t miss many, so there are some battered bodies and it’s a short turnaround – but that’s probably a good thing for us.
“We want to get going again quickly. The guys really enjoyed that win but we’ve been really clear about focusing on Friday – it’s a big game and let’s back up what we did last week.”