Bedford Blues 6 (0)
Bristol 18 (11)
Attendance - 2,933
Going into this game, Bristol head coach Liam Middleton had seen his side defeated Bedford Blues on each of the four occassions they had played them. His side ene extended that record to five games in Saturday's encounter at Goldington Road, grinding out a hard-fought win to maintain their top four aspirations.
Bristol's new director of rugby, the ex-England and Scotland coach Andy Robinson who started his new position the day before, was in attendance observing and will be heartened by what he saw. Tries for Luke Eves and Ryan Edwards, plus eight points from Adrian Jarvis' boot gave the visitors the win, while Bedford's only response came from two James Pritchard penalties.
The Blues can only have themselves to blame though, with several handling errors throughout the contest seeing the cough up possession far too easily. Credit must also be given to the Bristol defence as well, with the South West side keeping the hosts tryless at home for the first time since last season's play-off semi-final defeat against London Welsh.
Eves had forced an early turnover for the visitors, but strong defence and then two successive penalties allowed Bedford to relieve the pressure. The forwards were clearly up for the fight as well, with referee Ian Tempest speaking to both captains inside the first five minutes after a couple of minor confrontations.
Jarvis missed the chance to put Bristol ahead after putting a penalty attempt from 40 metres wide, but the fly half kicked them in front with a simple effort from in front of the posts on 17 minutes. The Blues responded with clever kick and chase from Luke Baldwin that forced a five-metre scrum after Jack Tovey was tackled inside his own in-goal area, although it came to naught as the hosts were penalised at the set piece.
Bedford had been manful in defence, but Bristol's forwards eventually ground down the resistance in the 29th minute. Mitchell Eadie sucked in two defenders with his run down the touchline, opening up a spot for centre Eves to burst through for an unconvertd try after receiving an offload from the number eight.
The away side had now wrested control of the game in their favour and a second Jarvis penalty from ten metres out in first half stoppage time put them 11 points in front. Neil Cochrane also received a ticking off from the referee over persistent infringements, while skipper Pritchard expressed his exasperation at some of Mr. Tempest's decision making.
Despite a brief flourish before the end of the half, Bedford went in scoreless at the interval. They eventually got on the board in the 53rd minute when Pritchard booted a penalty from 20 metres out and it appeared the tide was slowly starting to turn.
It proved only to be a brief revival though. Mark Atkinson carelessly gave away a penalty after handling the ball in the ruck and after Bristol had kicked to touch they worked a swift move from the resulting line-out, with Fautua Otto and Tovey shifting possession out wide to Evans, who out-paced Pritchard to score in the corner just before the hour mark.
Jarvis convereted and although Blues full back Pritchard kicked his second penalty a minute later it was not long before his side were back under the cosh. Bedford kept plugging away in the vain hope of securing at least a losing bonus point, but in the end it was a comfortable victory for Bristol as they begin their new era.
Bedford Blues - Pritchard (captain); Stephenson, Dodge (Burke 60), Atkinson, Kohler; Sharp (Dorrian 51), Baldwin (Veenendaal 60); Reeves (Cooper 49-63), Cochrane (Locke 51), Seal (Cooper 63), Howard, Gulliver (Tupai 67), Gillanders, Fox (Vandermolen 67), Barrell
Bristol - Tovey; Watkins, Otto (Mosses 80), Eves, Edwards; Jarvis (Roberts 74), Tipuna (captain) (Grindal 77); Traynor, Johnston (Lawrence 77), Thompson (Douglas 54), Sambucetti (Glynn 54), Townson, Mama, Pennycook (Merriman 72), Eadie
Referee - Ian Tempest