PREVIEW: Bedford vs Bristol Rugby
RUKI Tipuna has underlined the importance of Bristol making a flying start to their crucial Championship clash at Bedford tomorrow.
Bristol have won ten of their last 11 matches in all competitions – and the only game they lost in that period came after a sluggish start at Cornish Pirates on New Year's Day.
In that game, they fell 13-0 down inside the opening 23 minutes and ended up losing 32-17, which left them lagging behind the play-off places.
Bristol have since caught up, moving one point clear of the teams in both fifth and sixth places ahead of tomorrow's trip to second-placed Bedford.
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And, after racing into a 35-0 half-time lead in last week's 61-12 British & Irish Cup humiliation of Cardiff, Tipuna wants another blistering start tomorrow.
"We showed pace and power and good execution from the get-go last week and hopefully we can do the same this weekend," said the scrum-half.
"A few of those chances go for you early on and your confidence kicks on for the rest of the game.
"That needs to happen on Saturday – we need to start fast and start well and that will kick us on for the rest of the game.
"If you look at last week, it's hard to score that many points against any team. And, if you look at the tries, they still involved pressure catches, pressure passes, boys getting into good positions, so the execution still had to be good, regardless.
"It will be a step up this week but we're not looking to change too much."
Bristol's defeat in Penzance on New Year's Day brought their six-match winning streak to an end – but they have recovered impressively, winning their last four in a row.
And, after scoring 13 tries in their last two matches, as well as beating Ulster Ravens in a tight game in awful conditions in Belfast at the start of their run, belief is coursing through the Bristol camp.
However, with third-placed Nottingham visiting the Memorial Stadium next weekend, the next two matches are likely to shape their season.
"We've had our backs against the wall since New Year's Day in the Championship, so nothing changes – it's a big game for us and we're looking forward to it," said Tipuna.
"We're a good team. A few of the results at the start of the season didn't show that but we are a good team.
"Before the Pirates game, we were on a good run, and since then we've been on another good run. Things have just come together for us more recently.
"It's going all right for us and we just need to keep it going now, into the play-offs.
"We just want to focus on ourselves. If we keep winning and keep ticking points over, we'll be there or thereabouts at the end. We'll focus on our game and let the points fall where they do in the rest of the competition."
After starring against Cardiff, Tipuna looks likely to edge out James Grindal for the No 9 shirt at Goldington Road tomorrow – and is eager to convince head coach Liam Middleton he warrants keeping the shirt.
"We're having a good little battle there – I don't know if Liam's made his mind up yet but we'll just keep at it and see what happens," said Tipuna.
"I want to put a marker down and keep the shirt, so hopefully I can do a job at the weekend and hold onto it."
And, after Bristol scored 91 points and 13 tries in their last two games, wins over Rotherham and Cardiff, Tipuna is hungry for more of the same this weekend.
"It's good fun going forward with our pack, although it gets a bit tiring after a while, chasing rucks everywhere!" he joked. "But it's fun and the way we've played in the last two games is the way we want to play rugby."