Nottingham 63-7 Bristol: Bristol's capitulation is a very humbling experience
ONE step forward, two – and that is being generous in the extreme – steps back. After their brave, committed display in beating Bedford a week earlier, Bristol yesterday answered the question of whether that performance had been a new dawn or a false dawn.
We now know it was a false dawn, because yesterday's display at Meadow Lane was a pitiful, half-hearted impersonation of a rugby team; Bristol playing like a group of individuals who had been introduced to each other in the tunnel before the match.
The capitulation – an increasingly worrying and familiar feature of Bristol's recent history – reared its ugly head again, as the visitors fell in a similar way to their defeats at Cornish Pirates last season and Leeds this. One try was scored and then another, and, in the blink of an eye, the fight and the game were lost.
Another alarming feature of this performance was the cheap way in which possession was conceded – with turnovers accounting for many of Nottingham's tries – while Bristol's inability to defend the line-out drive in their own 22 proved calamitous.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The cultural difference between rugby and football is likely to prevent any kneejerk reactions emanating from the boardroom, but some supporters are already asking questions about the viability of head coach Liam Middleton's long-term future.
Bristol proved in beating Bedford 23-13 seven days earlier that they are not an inherently bad rugby team. Yesterday, they proved they are a long, long way from being a con sistent one, shipping nine tries off the back of a woefully disjointed performance that has left more questions than it provided answers.
"There were a lot of errors from us – the majority of their tries came from our turnovers, dropped balls or poor kicks," said Middleton. "For Nottingham, everything pretty much went their way, and when you put those two things together, it ends up in a bad day.
"It is a low point but it's another game. We have another game next week that we have to now prepare for – and we showed last week that we're good enough to win big games. We've got to pick up and start preparing for next week."
Middleton put Bristol's up-and-down early-season form down to inconsistency in selection – yet yesterday he fielded an unchanged XV for the first time this season and was rewarded with the worst performance by a Bristol team for a very long time. The tone was set in the first half, Nottingham securing a bonus point inside the opening 35 minutes as Bristol were repeatedly undone by the line-out drive.
On three occasions, Nottingham sent penalties to touch, and on three occasions they scored off the resulting line-out. After Jack Gadd had hobbled off injured, prompting a midfield reshuffle, Brent Wilson was driven over, while Alex Shaw crashed over in a similar manner a few minutes later.
James Arlidge, who converted all nine tries, ran back Tristan Roberts' clearance to free hooker Joe Duffey, who dived over in the corner, before skipper Wilson again profited from the juggernaut that was his side's driving game.
Bristol looked bright and sharp immediately after half-time but they were unable to profit from their three visits to the home 22 in the opening 10 minutes of the second half – and when, off the third of those, Nottingham won turnover ball and Rhys Crane raced up-field to score, the game was over as a contest.
Nottingham scored four tries in nine minutes, Joe Cobden capitalising on Arlidge's chip to score, before Crane added his second and Andrew Savage evaded Adrian Jarvis to run in an eighth try.
A section of the home support, many of whom stuck around for a second fireworks display after the match, burst into a chorus of "Can we play you every week?" and replacement Tom Calladine compounded Bristol's misery when he went over for a ninth try.
Ruki Tipuna at least managed to get Bristol on the scoreboard – but when he crossed, in the 78th minute, Bristol's players must have been thinking about their journey home.
"The consistency of our performance is something that I'm very conscious of and something I feel we need to rectify," said Middleton. "We addressed it in the week and said that a very good Bedford game needed to be backed up with a good performance today – and that didn't happen.
"We've got the potential to climb up the league. I know we're sitting in eighth but it's not a long way from eighth to fourth – a couple of wins. So there's a frustration that, had we won today, we'd have been well within touch, but we couldn't find that consistency in our performance.
"This team doesn't become bad overnight – we just performed badly on this particular day and we've got to grow now."