West Country rivalries don't get much better than Bath versus Bristol. Under a the floodlit Recreation Ground on a sodden Friday evening, a rain drenched crowd witnessed a scrappy performance from both sides with Bath, in their final pre-season game, emerging the eventual winners, by 20 points to 16.
The moment the whistle blew, both teams began their onslaught on their opposition. Bristol drew first blood after Bath were penalised for not releasing the tackled player, allowing fly-half Tristan Roberts to take three points. Shortly after, the visitor's small advantage was nullified with a Sam Vesty effort, tying the scores.
Vesty added another penalty kick minutes later when Bristol infringed after being put under immense pressure from chasing wing Tom Biggs. A mirror of the first set of penalties occurred when just a minute later Bath gave Roberts another chance at goal after not releasing in the tackle. Roberts duly converted. 6-6.
With 20 minutes played, Bristol seemed to gain confidence in their play and were inflicting some pressure on the Bath defence. Another penalty to Bristol saw them kick to touch with an attacking lineout. Driving towards the try line, a try looked to be on the cards, but the visitors were held up just short. However, Bath had conceded another penalty and Bristol chose the scrum just right of the posts to set a base for their attack. Keeping it close, the forwards plugged away at the line and, eventually, Bristol's second row, Mariano Sambucetti, found a hole and touched down for the try from close range. Roberts added the extras. 6-13.
Frustrated with conceding the first try, Bath came back at the visitors with serious gusto. A penalty provided Bath with the kick to touch and attacking line out just inside the Bristol 22. A well set catch and drive saw Bath begin to trundle towards the Bristol try line and a blind side peel from Carl Fearns saw him crash over for his first try in Bath colours. The conversion went just wide of the posts. 11-13.
Half-time score: Bath Rugby 11 Bristol Rugby 13.
In similar fashion to the first half, Bristol grabbed themselves the first points with a long range effort from Roberts. 11-16.
Bristol's Roberts came off the pitch to be substituted by Mark Davies, who missed three consecutive penalty opportunities, but it was Vesty who, after a sustained period of Bath pressure, kept his 100% record to take Bath ahead 17-16 with another penalty from close range.
A great chip over the top from scrum-half Michael Claassens put Bristol under pressure, eventually seeing them being forced into touch. Bath's attacking lineout collapsed and the referee signalled a Bath penalty after Bristol were penalised with charging the lineout. Vesty stepped up and calmly slotted the kick. 20-16.
Another penalty from the breakdown was awarded to Bath and in kicking distance, however, Bath confidently opted for the lineout. The backs attacked hard off, but the Bristol defence stood strong and eventually a dropped ball on the Bath wing ended the proceedings and signed off the evening with a double derby win for Bath Rugby.