Bristol Rugby: That victory will give us a lot of confidence, says Liam Middleton
LIAM Middleton was delighted with his Bristol players after their "back to basics" approach secured a 26-20 win at London Welsh – and, with it, a place in the Championship semi-finals.
Bristol, inspired by a powerful display from their forwards, returned to the summit of Pool A ahead of Saturday's pool finale against Doncaster and now look set to face the runners-up from Pool B in the last four.
There was a nervous end to yesterday's game at Old Deer Park, with London Welsh fighting back from 20-3 down after 63 minutes to get within three points of Bristol in injury time.
But head coach Middleton felt his team thoroughly deserved their first victory at London Welsh's ground since the 2009-10 season.
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"We hadn't won here for two seasons – we didn't win here last season, we hadn't won here this season – so it was a good win for us," said Middleton.
"The frustration is we gave away a bit of a lead – but it's a more of a psychological thing, I don't think it's a rugby thing.
"I was really pleased our power game came through. It's what we've done all season and we just needed to get back to our basics and find that balance between the power game and getting our backs to threaten in open play.
"I thought we got that balance for 60 minutes; then we maybe went inside ourselves a little bit and tried to protect a win. But I think we can learn from that – and there are a lot of positives from the way we approached the game."
Yesterday's result was a positive response to recent home draws against Welsh and Nottingham, which had threatened to cause Bristol to miss out on top spot in the pool. But their destiny remains in their own hands after two penalty tries helped them to victory in the capital.
"We probably left a couple of points on the pitch – I thought 20-6 was a fair result, because I thought we were 14 to 20 points better than them," said Middleton. "We wanted to set down a marker of coming here and saying, 'look, we can win here and we can win well'.
"Although the scoreline doesn't show that, I think we had a very strong opportunity to win well and it gives us a lot of confidence and sends a message to London Welsh that we can beat them away from home.
"And if we can pull off a performance at home like we did today then we'll be looking at a big scoreline.
"I think there's more to come from us. I know that's a cliché, but I really feel, having worked with this group of players and seen them play during the season, that there's more in them. We've just got to make sure we bring that at the right time."
Bristol wrap up their pool campaign at home to Doncaster – a side they recently beat 65-3 away from home – on Saturday and Middleton recognises the importance of building on yesterday's victory.
"We've got to take a lot of confidence from this game and push that confidence into Doncaster," said the Bristol coach.
"We're a good side and I think we're a side who are going to mean business in the competition, so we need to carry that confidence through to any game and any opposition we meet now."