Bristol's youngsters learn a harsh lesson at the hands of local rivals
BRISTOL Under-18s crashed to their fourth consecutive RFU Under-18s South Division defeat, and were taught a rugby lesson by a powerful and well-organised Bath side at the Recreation Ground.
The visitors, though full of enthusiasm, commitment and endeavour, were no match for their West Country rivals, and the five tries to nil scoreline fairly reflected Bath's superiority.
Bath's David Buck (2), Robbie Tait, Elliot Herrod-Taylor and Max Clarke all crossed for tries, and fly-half Rory Jennings added 15 points from the boot.
Bristol appeared to opt for mobility in their forwards, and selected five back-rowers in their starting pack, with Filton No 8 Monty Reed and Clifton flanker Fergus Manners packing down in the second row.
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But Bristol's lack of physical presence, height, and bulk in the front five, meant that Bath were able to dominate the gain-line, and inevitably, mopped up at the line-out, although, to their credit, Bristol's scrum held up under intense pressure.
Bristol were up against it from the opening whistle, and found themselves 14-0 adrift after just three minutes. Bristol bravely threw their bodies into contact, tackled themselves to a standstill and never gave up. But Bath's structured and well-executed attack, and sheer physical power, meant that there was only ever going to be one winner.
Bristol's game-plan in general appeared to lack any visible structure. Yes, there were bags of effort, and plenty of ball-carriers willing to have a crack at the Bath defence.
But, in truth, the visitors resembled a group of enthusiastic strangers who had been cobbled together at the eleventh hour, while Bath looked like a well-oiled machine – a team in every sense of the word.
Bristol centre pairing Lucas Slowik and Nick Carpenter, who have been tearing defences to shreds all season in Filton colours, were seldom afforded any front-foot attacking opportunities, and were reduced to bit-part players. And fly-half Julian Mogg probably made more tackles in this game than he has in all his previous games put together this season, while in contrast, his opposite number, Rory Jenkins, was given an armchair ride by his pack.
Bath led 28-0 at the turnaround, and looked all set to post a cricket score. But Bristol dug in, and showed a marked improvement in the second half, with Ryan Roach coming off the bench to impress at hooker, Connor Littlewood adding zip at scrum-half, and replacement wing Elias Caven showing good footwork and blistering pace when given the opportunity.
The visitors continued to battle to the final whistle, none more so than the energetic Manners, who was the standout performer in a Bristol shirt. But Bath finished strongly and wrapped things up with two further converted tries.
Bristol Academy manager Mike Hall made no excuses for his side and admitted they were second best throughout the game.
He said: "We just didn't turn up really, we were 15-0 down in two minutes and we never really recovered from that. We couldn't generate any field position, they were better than us in all aspects of the game and we've got no complaints.
"We've got one last chance to put in a performance that we're proud of, we don't want to finish on this. We've got to be better in defence and we've got to get some points on the board, we've got plenty of points in us."
It doesn't get any easier for Bristol, who next face the highly-rated London Saracens Academy Under-18s on Sunday at Clifton RFC.