Liam Middleton delighted with the spirit and work-rate of his Bristol side
LIAM Middleton hailed his Bristol players' spirit and camaraderie after they stuck together and dug in to beat Plymouth Albion 21-8 in dreadful conditions in Devon.
Discussions took place between Bristol head coach Middleton, opposite number Nat Saumi and the match officials before kick-off at Brickfields over whether the pitch was playable.
But Bristol's attitude seemed spot on from the start – they were hungry to play and eager to leapfrog Plymouth into fifth place in the Championship, which they achieved with a thoroughly committed display.
In driving rain and swirling wind, Bristol bossed proceedings on a sodden pitch from the start, leading 14-3 at half-time and always looking the likeliest victors.
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Middleton was delighted with both the execution and work-rate shown by his players.
"The squad have got a very good spirit – and it's on days like these, where you've got to back your man up and go to the trenches, that it really shines through," he said.
"I am full of praise for the boys' spirit and their work ethic, because on heavy ground you've got to tackle, get up and work again – and they did that.
"We've been focusing on one goal at a time – and we've had a good performance against Jersey with the sun on our backs and scored six tries with a dry ball; then we've come here in contrasting conditions and showed we can play with good balance.
"This has reinforced something I knew already: that this team can play with balance, it can play in any conditions and it has the ability to adjust to conditions.
"I know the spirit has always been there, but it's just great to see it shining through.
"That's what rugby is about – it's about winning, but it's also about the camaraderie and the pride of playing in a Bristol shirt and being in a Bristol team."
Bristol were full of pride at Brickfields, working relentlessly from the start and smartly using the conditions to their advantage, with the pack firmly on top and half-back duo Ruki Tipuna and Adrian Jarvis mastering the tricky conditions.
But at one point, around an hour before kick-off, the match had looked in some doubt – with large areas of standing water on the Brickfields pitch.
However, Middleton said: "There were some discussions between the referee and both coaches as to whether the game should go ahead – but we planned for these conditions. We prepared all week in these conditions for these conditions.
"We knew our game-plan and we felt that if the pitch was playable, which the referee deemed it was, then we were keen to go ahead with it. It was just a wet pitch really – we felt it was a good pitch to play on."
Bristol, meanwhile, have confirmed that lock Roy Winters could be out of action for up to four months after undergoing ankle surgery. The 36-year-old will not play again in 2012, with the club estimating he will miss "14-16 weeks" of action.
Bristol, fortunately, are well served in the second row, with Mariano Sambucetti, Glen Townson and Ben Glynn all featuring regularly this season and summer recruit George Biagi coming into contention after appearing from the bench at Plymouth.
Bristol are next in action on Friday (7.45pm) when they face London Scottish at the Memorial Stadium.