Pat Lam admitted that Bristol were ruthlessly punished for their mistakes after French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne floored his team in a spectacular Heineken Champions Cup clash at Ashton Gate.
But the 12-try encounter proved way ahead of the recent Autumn Nations Cup Test matches in terms of entertainment value and high-class rugby.
“It was entertaining for neutrals, but you are asking for trouble when you give away 21 points in 16 minutes to a fully-loaded team like that,” Bristol rugby director Lam said.
“The thing that cost us was all our little mistakes.
“We had six turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and little things like our defence over-folded and we didn’t look up. We worked our way back, but ultimately it was a bridge too far.”
Clermont’s bonus-point success confirmed them among this season’s Champions Cup favourites, with Bristol conceding seven tries.
Japanese star Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick, and there was a double for wing Damian Penaud, while centre Apisai Naqalevu and number eight Fritz Lee also touched down, with captain Camille Lopez kicking 16 points.
Bristol, to their immense credit, claimed five tries and a losing bonus point, with Max Malins, Harry Randall, Bryan Byrne, Ioan Lloyd and Siale Piutau all breaching Clermont’s defence, while Callum Sheedy added three conversions and a penalty and Malins converted late efforts by Lloyd and Piutau.
Lam added: “We are not are not overawed by this tournament – it is great to be part of it.
“You don’t know what is around the corner in the sense of other results. This time next week, we will know where it lies.
“It is only four teams out of 12 that will reach the quarter-finals in our pool, and there are some pretty good teams in our pool. We have got to fix the things we didn’t get right.
“We worked hard to be here, and it is great to be playing this sort of rugby against this sort of team.
“We have become the team we have because of these sort of moments we’ve had along the way, and this will be another one as we improve to get to where we want to be.”
A breathless encounter provided more than a point a minute, with some memorable tries and both sets of players putting an emphasis on attack.
Kotaro Matsushima, take a bow ?
Clermont were a joy to watch against Bristol Bears, and 3?? of their 7?? tries came from their Japanese star ??
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 12, 2020
“I think it’s a mindset,” Lam said. “When one team decides to play, and the other team decides to play, you can get that sort of rugby.
“We’ve got a great pitch, the weather was good and the attitude from both teams was good.
“I always want my teams to have no fear. If it is on, go. We were running it because it was on.
“There are a lot of dangermen at this level, but you can’t give them time and space, and we gave them time and space through silly things.
“We will learn from it. When you play a team like this, they will bite you, and unfortunately we got bit.”
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