Bristol boss Pat Lam is ready for “a huge challenge” when his Gallagher Premiership title hopefuls – inspired by the impact of new signing Semi Radradra – tackle league leaders Exeter on Tuesday. The Ashton Gate showdown could prove to be a dress rehearsal for October’s Premiership final, such is the form of both teams.
Radradra ran the show as Bristol consolidated second spot by beating Gloucester 33-24 at Kingsholm. The box-office Fijian centre scored a try and made two others during a first-half Bristol onslaught that saw them claim four tries in 23 minutes.
Former Gloucester wing Henry Purdy, full-back Max Malins and hooker Harry Thacker also crossed to set up Bristol’s first away win over their West Country rivals since 2006. “Exeter are the flag-bearers at the moment,” Bristol rugby director Lam said.
“It is great that we are going up against them and it is going to be full-on on Tuesday, I would say. You need to be an 80-minute team – that’s what it takes. You are going to be mentally and physically challenged for the full 80-plus minutes, and Exeter is a huge challenge.”
Gloucester tried to cling on through tries by prop Fraser Balmain and centre Chris Harris, while Billy Twelvetrees kicked two conversions and a penalty before Danny Cipriani converted Stephen Varney’s late try.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) August 21, 2020
But Malins’ fellow Saracens loan signing Ben Earl scored early in the second period, with fly-half Callum Sheedy’s four conversions underpinning an outstanding bonus-point display. Lam, though, was not completely satisfied with his team’s performance.
“Yes, we are happy, but at 19-0 up we conceded some sloppy yardage and they got in with a soft score,” he said. “We talked about tidying things up, but we kept taking the pressure off Gloucester through some messy rugby.”
Lam and Gloucester head coach George Skivington were both in admiration of Radradra’s display on only his second appearance since arriving from French Top 14 club Bordeaux-Begles. Skivington said: “He is pretty special, isn’t he? There were two or three showings of what he’s made of. He is an outstanding player.”
On Gloucester’s display, Skivington added: “We were a little bit slow getting into the game, and Bristol weren’t. Before we knew it we had a mountain to climb against one of the best teams in the league. We started slowly and felt our way into it too much, but the fighting spirit was pleasing. We kept trying to play, and we certainly didn’t throw the towel in.”
'We have the best training centre in the country and that is not bragging, that is just factual'@BristolBears CEO Mark Tainton on their new training centre, ring-fencing, Lam, Radradra & how a clean-out of players in 2017 was needed, writes @heagneyl https://t.co/fsHrkGupXc
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 12, 2020
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now