By Ian Todd
February 1 2016

Bristol notched up a bonus point win against a brave but limited Jersey.  In the process, Bristol became the side that has conceded the fewest points in the league, taking that honour from the visitors.  The first half in particular featured a structured and effective game plan that left Jersey outclassed as Adrian Jarvis' distribution and kicking forced the monster Jersey pack to turn and turn again as it battled both Bristol and the wind.

With a strong wind and drizzle in the air, Jersey kicked off the game into the gale.  Bristol struggled initially and gave away a penalty for a high tackle.  Jersey elected to go for a touch just inside the Bristol 22.  They made little ground from the lineout, only for a rather harsh penalty right in front of the posts to give them a first chance at points.  Amazingly the kick struck the left-hand upright.  Bristol cleared and Tom Varndell was quickly up and putting the Jersey receiver under pressure.  The visitors struggled to regroup and gave away a penalty.  Now Bristol chose to go for points and Adrian Jarvis floated the ball over.

With the wind behind them Bristol stepped up the pressure and Jersey gave away another penalty.  Jarvis sent it to touch and the forward drive went in.  The opposition pack failed to deal with maul and it smashed over the line.  Sadly the referee felt unable to award the try with a pile of bodies in his way.  Bristol failed to make anything of the subsequent scrum and Jersey forced Bristol into touch out on the left wing.  However, they made a mess of things from the lineout and a powerful run from Jack Tovey took play into the heart of the defence which gave away another penalty.  Jarvis had his kicking boots on and took Bristol into a 6 – nil lead.

Bristol continued to peg Jersey back with a well-executed kicking game.  Some in the crowd inexplicably groaned, but with the wind behind the hosts and a monster pack in front of them it made sense to use the conditions to make them keep turning.  In particular, in contrast to kicking duels we have seen in the past, the kick chase was effective with Varndell to the fore.  His presence forced a hurried clearance that made little distance.  The pack drove again, sucking in the defence.  Mitch Eadie smashed towards the line and had the strength to reach out and dab the ball down as he was brought to ground.  Jarvis converted to make it 13 – 0.

He extended the lead shortly after with Jersey penalised again.  A great run from Luke Arscott, stepping out of the tackle, took Bristol into the visitors’ 22.  Unfortunately, with the defence struggling, a kick ahead ran dead to let Jersey off.  However, the vaunted Jersey pack was failing to handle a smaller but technically superior set of Bristol forwards and a quickly taken free kick from Jarvis was superbly judged as it skipped into touch just metres from the Jersey line.  The Jersey throw went long and Anthony Perenise reacted quickly to pounce on the ball.  It was quickly recycled and Jack O’Connel went over for a converted try that took Bristol in 23 – 0 up at half time.

Jarvis restart went out on the full in what was probably his only error of the match.  It was a brief setback though and the Jersey scrum on halfway fell apart.  Jack Lam seized the ball and rampaged downfield taking Bristol to five metres out.   Jersey cleared downfield but Bristol claimed the resulting lineout and Lam broke clear again.  He fed Eadie who went in for his second converted try.

The weather was certainly worsening but Bristol were coping well and Jersey were unable to exert the level of control that Bristol had in the first half.

The visitors’ best chance came when a couple of penalties allowed them to make ground well into the Bristol 22.  They laboured to take advantage of the field position but were aided when another penalty was advanced ten metres when the referee felt, severely, that the ball had been thrown away.  Bristol’s replacements had, at last, started to appear and the fear was that they might initially struggle in the set piece.   An unfounded fear because Jersey were promptly penalised at the scrum.

Jersey finally managed to get on the score sheet in a completely fortuitous bit of play when an unhelpful pass squirmed from Ben Mosses grasp and he was unable to reclaim it on the ground.  Fautua Otto hacked ahead and just had the pace to make it to the line ahead of the defenders.  Sadly Jarvis pulled up with a leg injury in the chase.  Bristol were undaunted and a succession of penalties allowed them to work their way back into the Jersey half.  A final kick to touch and the catch-and-drive move allowed Ross McMillan to claim the bonus point try.   At the very death a mix up in defence allowed Phillips to wriggle over in the left-hand corner for an unconverted try.  My view was that he actually lost the ball just before touching down but it left the final score at 35 – 12.

pqs: qs:
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Date: 01/02/2016 17:33

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