A record crowd for the Guinness Premiership witnessed the latest chapter in the history of Bath-Bristol derbies, but as with the last two this season, it finished in favour of Bristol, who finished 16-6 winners.
Steve Meehan pinpointed the Bath set-piece as the main reason for the loss: "I thought we let ourselves down," the Head Coach said after the match. "Our set-piece didn't function as well as it did against Sale, our discipline cost us at times and we turned over ball far too easily."
Bath had not been fazed either by the firework nor the roar or 21,000 fans that greeted the home team's entrance onto the pitch. They took the game to Bristol, making headway well into the Bristol half with a cut-out pass to David Bory from Shaun Berne, and again with Peter Short down the left wing.
A deft kick by Berne to touch put Bristol on the back foot again, and though this time they won their lineout, Shaun Perry's clearance found Michael Stephenson, who cut straight through the defence, making ten metres.
Again, Bristol cleared thanks to a penalty, but Bath stole the lineout, and Bory and Stephenson again put the defence to work before the ball was lost forward. The pressure eventually yielded a penalty in Bath's favour, which Olly Barkley elected to kick for goal, and he coolly kicked it over from 35 metres.
Minutes later, a kick by Berne from his 22 was charged down by centre Josh Taumalolo and had the in-goal area been larger, he might have scored a try.
However, the Bristol pack was giving Bath a torrid time in the scrum, and from such a set-piece, David Hill cut through the tackles, the ball went left and up to the tryline through Lee Robinson and David Lemi, but the video referee ruled that the wing had knocked the ball forward. Bristol kept up the pressure, forcing Bath to push a garryowen by Perry over the dead-ball line, and after two more penalties, the Bristol captain stretched over to score from a catch-and-drive.
Bath still looked to attack, and when Bristol were penalised at a scrum in their half, Barkley took Bath ahead again. But when Dan Ward-Smith picked up from a Bristol scrum in the Bath half, he ran through a gaping hole deep into the 22. As he tracked back in defence, Peter Short got in the way of the ball. He was shown the yellow card and Hill kicked the penalty, giving the home team the half-time lead.
Seven minutes into the second half, the fly-half could have stretched Bristol's lead when Joe El Abd stole Bath lineout ball, and Bath were penalised at the ruck, but he missed the attempt at goal. Bristol's confidence was not diminished, and having continued to press Bath's defence, they forced another penalty which Hill converted.
Bath won possession from the restart, and this time Bristol indiscipline allowed Barkley to kick for goal, but the attempt went awry. Play came to a brief halt when Nick Walshe was flattened by a late, high tackle by Mark Regan, for which the former Bath hooker was sin-binned. Given the penalty, Bath took the kick to touch and lineout option, but after a ruck that followed, Regan was soon joined by his opposite number Lee Mears, sent off for ten minutes for stamping, and the territorial advantage was lost.
The television match official was called upon for the second time in the match when Bristol turned over ball at a Bath scrum, Hill put a cross-field kick for Robinson, and the wing claimed the ball. This time, the try counted.
With both teams back to their full complement, Barkley and Hill each had a chance to kick three more points for their side, but neither was successful and the match petered out to the final whistle.
14: Penalty Barkley, 0-3
31: Try Llewellyn, 5-3
36: Pen Barkley, 5-6
40+3: Pen Hill, 8-6
53: Pen Hill, 11-6
71: Try Robinson, 16-6
BATH: 15. M Stephenson 14. J Maddock 13. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 12. O Barkley 11. D Bory (Walker, 68) 10. S Berne 9. N Walshe (Williams, 73) 1. D Barnes 2. L Mears (sin-bin 60-76) 3. L Ovens 4. P Short (sin-bin: 40+2-43; Fidler, 74) 5. D Grewcock (Louw, 74) 6. A Beattie 7. J Scaysbrook (Dixon, 62; Faamatuainu, 77) 8. I Feaunati (captain)
Replacements: 16. P Dixon 17. T Sigley 18. R Fidler 19. J Faamatuainu 20. H Louw 21. A Williams 22. C Walker
BRISTOL: 15. C Morgan 14. L Robinson 13. S Cox 12. J Taumalolo (Lima, 68) 11. D Lemi 10. D Hill 9. S Perry (O'Riordan, 49) 1. A Clarke 2. M Regan (sin-bin: 58-74) 3. D Crompton 4. R Winters 5. G Llewellyn (captain) 6. A To'oala (Budgett, 79) 7. J El Abd (Nelson, 62; Salter, 74) 8. D Ward-Smith
Replacements: 16. S Nelson 17. D Hilton 18. N Budgett 19. M Salter 20. B O'Riordan 21. J Strange 22. B Lima
Referee: S Davey