CAN WE CROSS THE BRISTOL CHANNEL?
April 10 2019
Saturday sees Sarries make the trip to Ashton Gate to face Bristol Bears. The kick-off is a latish one – 5.30. Not because of TV on this occasion but because Bristol are celebrating something called “Bristol Combination day”. I gather the Bristol Combination is an organisation for the promotion of junior rugby in the city. The late kick off “will allow adult teams to play their Saturday fixtures and then travel to the game against the reigning champions,” and according to The Bears’ website “The game will be a celebration of local rugby, so we encourage you to bring your friends and family, enjoy the fan village and wear your combination colours with pride.”
Bristol were promoted from the Championship last season and seem to have made a decent fist of their return to the top flight. The club underwent a “rebrand” to become “Bristol Bears” and owner Steve Lansdown put his hand in his pocket to fund some judicious signings, most notably Charles Piutau (joining brother Siale), John Afoa, Harry Thacker & George Smith. Under the guidance of Pat Lam, Bristol have played some entertaining rugby this season, including their early-season visit to Allianz Park when they gave Sarries a minor fright before a George Smith red card and a late hat-trick from Liam Williams saw Sarries run out 44-23 winners. With 4 rounds to go, Bristol are in 9th, having won 6 of their 18 games (interestingly as have the 3 teams below them, Leicester Tigers, Worcester & Newcastle) and accrued 13 bonus points along the way. This puts them 8 points clear of Newcastle at the bottom and although they aren’t safe from relegation yet, they have every chance of avoiding the drop.
Bristol have lost their last 2 games (to Bath at Twickenham & Worcester) but had 2 decent wins over Northampton & Gloucester before that.
Bristol’s injury list is mounting - they had already lost Will Capon (shoulder), Shaun Malton (groin), Joe Latta (eye), Joe Joyce (ankle), John Hawkins (elbow), James Dun (knee), Nick Haining (groin), Jack Tovey (rib), Will Hurrell (shoulder), Ryan Edwards (shoulder) and Charles Piutau (calf) before last weekend and have now been forced to add Australian Luke Morahan (who needs surgery on his shoulder) Jordan Crane & Sam Jeffries while Luke Daniels is doubtful with concussion. In addition it appears that the Piutau’s have sadly lost their sister so Siale may also be unavailable this weekend. Pat Lam is down to the bones so we may see something like:
Protheroe, Pincus, Pisi, O’Connor, Leuia, Sheedy, Randall, Woolmore, Thacker, Afoa, Holmes, Vui, Luatua, Thomas, Smith
For Sarries, I would expect a continuation of last week’s squad rotation without Brad (who amazingly may be fit for Munster) & Liam Williams (who had a tight hamstring last week & is too valuable to risk). So we may see something like:-
Goode, Strettle, Tompkins, Lozowski, Lewington, Farrell, Spencer, Titi (or possibly Mako), George, Koch, Skelton, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Wray, Billy Vunipola
If Sarries can avoid this potential banana skin and raise their game a notch or 2 from last week, then another 5-pointer should be within our grasp and a home semi more or less in the bag.
The referee is once again Tom Foley (what do we have to do to get Wayne Barnes?)pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:04:21:22:20:18 by Darraghgirl.
Have to feel for Pat Lam with a whole XV unavailable - we see the difference when we have half our first choice on international duty, so it's much worse for struggling sides.
Since our recent away form has been less than stellar, the result is far from a gimme - as indicated by their 13 BP's.
I'm taking nothing for granted (as I'm certain you're not either), but a 5-pointer should be on - but won't be easy ...
... bearing in mind that if Mr Foley is as random in his decisions as Mr Doyle the other week, we may have to cross the line seven times to actually gain the Bonus Point
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