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Match Preview: Bristol Bears (A)



Fixture: Bristol Bears vs London Irish

Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 3

Date: Saturday 24th September 2022

Kick-off: 3pm

Stadium: Ashton Gate Stadium

Capacity: 27,000


Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership action sees Bristol Bears host London Irish at Ashton Gate, the West Country team looking to maintain their 100% league record ahead the visit of the Exiles.

Pat Lam’s Bristolian outfit were aided by the efforts of Callum Sheedy against Wasps, who chipped in with a round-high 18 points (including a try and 100% kicking percentage) to win 23-8 in Coventry last weekend.  

Whilst Bears made the second-least metres (273) and defenders beaten (8) of any Premiership side in Round 2, they showed their defensive acumen with the second-most tackles (218) and most turnovers won (14).

Bears’ work behind the scenes has meant that last season’s 10th-place side are refreshed with a cast of big hitting players both new and familiar with the Gallagher Premiership, namely AJ MacGinty, Ellis Genge and Magnus Bradbury.

Irish have now bettered their haul of nine tries last year in the opening two rounds of the Premiership, and currently retain the most tries (10) and points (67) so far in the 2022/23 league despite a second-round loss to Northampton Saints.

The Exiles took a first win from Ashton Gate last February as Paddy Jackson accounted for 24 of his Club’s 49 points on the evening on Bristol, winning by a 15-point margin, with Bristol winning in Brentford earlier on in the season.

The boss- Pat Lam:

A successful playing career included stints in England as well as representing Samoa in three Rugby World Cups, Pat Lam won the inaugural Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons in 1998 and captained Northampton Saints to their first Heineken Cup two years later.

In the dugout, Lam brought with him his transformative reputation to the Sportsground in Galway with Connacht Rugby, winning their only Pro 12 title to date in 2016.

Lam’s work not only etched himself into Club folklore in Ireland, but in his time with Bristol Bears the former Samoa international brought Bears to the top flight as winners of the 2017/18 Championship.

Since then, he has guided the Club to two play-off berths as well as lifting the European Challenge Cup in the 2019/20 campaign.

One to watch- Magnus Bradbury:

One of 15 new signatures in the summer, Magnus Bradbury has hit the ground running after linking up with his new Club.

Despite being Glasgow born, it was Edinburgh Rugby who brought the 19-time capped Scottish international to the professional fore after a century of appearances, now plying his explosive talents amongst Pat Lam’s organisation after seven years with the capital side.

He was awarded the Sir Willie Purves Quaich in 2017, a gong bestowed upon the most outstanding young male Scottish player.

Two tries in two competitive appearances as a Bear, including a five-pointer in a 23-8 win over Wasps last week, means Bradbury could not have asked for a better start to life in BS3.

The 27-year-old has contributed to his new Club currently being the Gallagher Premiership side averaging the most turnovers (9) per game and accompanying Irish in the top five teams of average tackles per game (159).

Bradbury was one of four Bristol Bears (Jake Heenan, Luke Morahan, Sam Jeffries and Bradbury) in the top 10 players in Round 2 in turnovers won, with the Scottish back-row himself in the top 10 overall with three registered in company with teammate Harry Randall.

Classic Encounter- London Irish 38-21 Bristol – 4th April 2009 – Guinness Premiership:

A six-try performance from London Irish lifted them to the helm of the Guinness Premiership and conversely sent Bristol down to the second tier, finishing 38-21 at the Madejski Stadium.

A Tom Homer penalty opened the scoring, but it was Bristol who scored the game’s first try through bustling hooker Scott Linklater only for Nick Kennedy to reply soon after.

Fellow forward Steffon Armitage dotted down before the break, Kennedy making his presence count again in the second half in the corner before David Lemi’s interception cut Irish’s lead to a converted score.

Bristol’s hopes faded with some slick play from the backs saw scrum-half Paul Hodgson and winger Adam Thompstone, who bagged a fourth quarter brace, before Luke Eves’ late consolation.

London Irish

Tries: Nick Kennedy (2), Steffon Armitage, Adam Thompstone (2), Paul Hodgson

Conversions: Delon Armitage

Penalties: Tom Homer (2)


Tries: Scott Linklater, David Lemi, Luke Eves

Conversions: Luke Arscott (3)

Pre-match patter:

Bristol Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam spoke of what challenge lies ahead of London Irish’s visit to Bristol this Saturday.

“We lost to London Irish at home last year and the last three games against London Irish have been bizarre games, exciting for the neutrals,” Lam commented.

“We were thirty points ahead when we were there three games before, and they came flying back and we ended up with a draw.

“We wone down there lost season but they shot back, and at home we shot out to an early lead but we got a card and they scored lots of points in a short amount of time.

“Based on those last three games, it’s a great day for our Family Day but obviously we don’t want them to score that many points, but it’s always an exciting game.”

Lam projected an acutely aware outlook of the danger Irish can cause in attack, also crediting the Club’s youth system and production line in south-west London.

“They have got some class players, if you look at their Academy they have a really good catchment area with a high quality of schools that often end up in their Academy.

“[Henry] Arundell is one example of many that they have brought through, and they have brought through many experienced foreign players with a great coaching staff headed by Declan [Kidney] and Les [Kiss].

“They have got that ability to have that purple patch and when they do, if you don’t control that well they will come back and sting you.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby


Hill ready for Chiefs test at the AJ Bell



Following an extended break due to his involvement in England’s summer tour of Australia, the Sharks family finally got their chance to see Jonny Hill in action last week as the British & Irish Lion made his highly anticipated debut against Bath at The Rec.

But rather than focus on his own efforts, it was the team performance at Bath that Jonny was especially proud of on his first outing as a Shark, with the 28-year-old recognising the resilience of his new teammates in the face of adversity after going down to fourteen men after just nine minutes.

He said: “I was really impressed with the boys at Bath. I thought we fought really hard and showed a lot of perseverance going down to fourteen and then thirteen men at some stages.”

It was a performance to be proud of for Jonny too as the England International played all 80 minutes to help the Sharks complete their second consecutive bonus point victory in as many weeks.

After seamlessly slotting into the Sale squad following a busy summer on tour with England, Jonny credits the extended break offered to him by Sale as a catalyst for his early form this season.

He said: “The extra time I had off following the tour was good. The main thing it allowed me to do was freshen up physically and mentally whilst it also gave me the chance get used to being in a new environment. I’m feeling good for it now though and looking forward to getting stuck into the season.”

It’s a season of change in many areas for Jonny, having to settle into a new city and integrate himself amongst the squad. But the Devon-born giant admits he’s been pleasantly surprised by the northern weather at least.

He said: “It’s been brilliant so far to be fair. I’ve been here five or six weeks now and luckily the weather has been really nice since I moved up. I’ve not been up to too much so far, just getting into the swing of things in pre-season and spending time with the lads. I’ve managed to played a bit of golf but I haven’t found myself a beach to relax on just yet.”

The culture shock of a move from the South-West was balanced by the bromance Jonny already shared with Tom Curry. In fact he revealed he enjoys both Curry twins’ company, so much so that he moved in with the pair when he first arrived in Manchester.

He said: “I’ve spent quite a lot of time with the Curry’s. I knew Tom from England and the Lions and he offered to put me up when I first arrived. That was a strange experience! I’m glad to be out of their way for a bit now.”

Hill is set to make his first appearance in front of the Sharks faithful on Saturday, with the 6ft 7in lock expected to start against his former side.

And after spending seven trophy-laden years at Sandy Park, Jonny knows just what to expect.

He added: “It’s going to be very physical, especially around the breakdown and the Chiefs always bring it up front. It’s going to be a very attritional game but I’m excited for the challenge. I’m just not so excited to see what’s going to happen at the bottom of those rucks!”

Catch Jonny in action this weekend as Sale Sharks face off against his former side Exeter Chiefs at the AJ Bell Stadium. With both sides still unbeaten so far this season, it’s set to be an absolute belter on Saturday afternoon.

Get tickets here

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Match Report: Bath Rugby 15-29 Gloucester (Premiership Rugby Cup)



Match summary – Bath Rugby 15-29 Gloucester

A youthful Bath Rugby side put in a spirited display in their Premiership Rugby Cup meeting with Gloucester, but the visitors’ experience told in the second half. 

Tom Doughty’s converted try and a George Worboys penalty had the Blue, Black and White 10-7 ahead at half-time. 

Jack Reeves’ double added to Jake Polledri’s opener to put Gloucester in front and Kyle Moyle edged the game out of sight. 

Bath remained in the hunt for points until late on and hooker John Stewart’s score proved a consolation just past the hour.

Team News

Tom Ellis returned to captain the side along with Ruaridh McConnochie, both having missed eight months of action.

Alongside their experience, Assistant Coach Luke Charteris gave his younger players their first run out of the season with Sam Harris and Louie Hennessey earning their senior debuts. 

Second row pairing of Michael Etete and JJ Tonks were also appearing for Bath for the first time.

Gloucester welcomed some experience back as Jonny May, Polledri and Lewis Ludlow were named by George Skivington.

Bath Rugby: 15 Sam Harris, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Louie Hennessey, 12 Will Butt, 11 Gabe Goss, 10 George Worboys, 9 Max Green; 1 Arthur Cordwell, 2 Tom Doughty, 3 Johannes Jonker, 4 Michael Etete, 5 JJ Tonks, 6 Tom Ellis ©, 7 Ethan Staddon, 8 Nahum Merigan

Impact players: 16 John Stewart, 17 Archie Stanley, 18 Kieran Verden, 19 Mackenzie Graham, 20 Thompson Cowan, 21 Tom Carr-Smith, 22 Max Wright, 23 Darren Atkins

Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Jack Reeves, 12 Giorgi Kveseladze, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Stephen Varney; 1 Ciaran Knight, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Bryan O’Connor, 4 Arthur Clark, 5 Cameron Jordan, 6 Jack Clement, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Jake Polledri

Replacements: 16 Seb Blake, 17 Fed Ma’a, 18 James Pollard, 19 Freddie Thomas, 20 Jack Bartlett, 21 Matty Jones, 22 Isaac Marsh, 23 Jake Morris

First half

The first 10 minutes were evenly matched on physicality, with the ball going through both Bath and Gloucester hands in attack.

Debutant Harris got an early touch on the ball on the receiving end of a nicely placed crossfield kick and demonstrated Bath’s attacking intent.

With solid hits coming from Arthur Cordwell and Etete, and strong carrying from Will Butt, the hosts looked in a good place. However, Gloucester had their moments too.

Italy international Polledri received the ball off the back of a line-out to charge over the line, giving his side the first points of the game.

Answering back, Bath cashed in on a penalty and Worboys got his side’s first points on the board.  

Showing their intent once again, a break from Gabe Goss put Bath on the front foot as he made 15 metres down the wing. Spotting the space, youngster Harris put boot to ball to bounce it into touch deep inside the Gloucester 22 as Bath began to put the pressure on.

It paid off as after a succession of penalties, Doughty bided his time at the back of a driving maul to burrow over and Worboys’ extras made it 10-7.

Edging closer to the close of the half, Bath needed to be resilient to thwart Gloucester of any points and they did just that, preventing such with a superb turnover.

Second half

Gloucester came out strong in the second period as Reeves capitalised on some open field to sprint over and George Barton kept the scoreline ticking over with another conversion.

The Cherry & Whites continued in the ascendancy with Reeves grabbing his second just before the hour with a bulldozing close-range finish which saw JJ Tonks sinbinned in the process.

A third second-half try came just shy of the hour mark as full-back Moyle slipped through a gap on the outside for Gloucester’s fourth.

Not to be downbeat, Bath bit back quickly and replacement hooker Stewart delivered accurate arrows before steering a maul over for a try.

Barton ticked Gloucester’s tally to 29 to make Bath need two scores to claw their way back in and despite many entries into the 22, they couldn’t quite get past a stubborn away defence.

With many patterns beginning to emerge of what Johann van Graan is trying to instil, there are plenty of positives, as well as work ons, to take from the performance. 

Pol Roger Performance of the Match


GALLERY: GLOUCESTER (H – CUP) by Bath Rugby on Exposure

Content & Images from – Bath Rugby

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Baxter outlines Simmonds departure



Exeter Chiefs

By Andrew Baldock

Rob Baxter says England international Sam Simmonds will leave Exeter with the club’s blessing.

Baxter has insisted there are no issues surrounding back-row forward Simmonds’ move to French champions Montpellier next season.

He is expected to be available for next year’s World Cup but after that will be ineligible to represent his country.

Saracens boss Mark McCall said on Tuesday that he believes the departure overseas of a player in his prime has wider implications for the Gallagher Premiership.

“I say that because Sam is 27, nearing his peak and is now making himself ineligible for England,” McCall said. “I kind of understand someone who is early 30s doing it after they’ve had their international career and want to experience something different. But to start losing the best young talent in the Premiership, someone like Sam, is a worry.”

Exeter rugby director Baxter, though, has adopted a philosophical stance.

“I think people sometimes get the wrong idea about this,” Baxter said. “I talk a lot to the players and staff in that you want people to be in an environment where they can thrive, work very hard, you want them to win and be successful for each other.

“The outcome of that is it means they are attractive propositions for other clubs who want a bit of that success. There are going to be some outcomes, and some of those are going to be that they are going to get big contract offers.

“It is not a negative when a player leaves you because someone wants them and can afford to pay them more than you can. It is negative when you fall out and a person moves for no positive reason at all. It’s very rare that happens here.

“Sam goes with our blessing for a great adventure, a great opportunity in France. He has still got a lot of good rugby left in him, and we had a long chat about it. He came to us first and explained. We haven’t been in massive, long, drawn-out contract debates about it. The figures are so far apart that there hasn’t really been a debate.”

The dire finances of Premiership clubs have resulted in the salary cap being reduced to £5million.

And, while necessary, reduced wages on offer to players has made it increasingly difficult for English clubs to compete with sides in France and Japan. The fear is that other members of Eddie Jones’ Test squad will follow Simmonds overseas.

The cap for Premiership clubs is due to return to £6.4m for the 2024-45 season.

Baxter added: “Even in the £6.4m cap, you could lose players, particularly to France. I suppose with a £5m cap, all of a sudden the attraction of staying in England lessens a little bit because of the difference in the figures.

“There is another argument that if England paid them more per game – that will cause some debate because England players are pretty well paid compared to some other nations – but that’s another way of bridging the gap. Players add up the whole package.

“It’s a challenge, and something that is going to happen for a little bit. But it is not keeping me awake at night. You have got to keep rolling.”

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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