Having never been to Ashton Gate I was looking forward to my first trip, I left home at 10:30 am to make sure I arrived in plenty of time. I was due to meet my fellow Rose Army member and staunch Bristol fan Andrew to go to the ground with him and his delightful children Arthur and Hetty and his Dad David.
My journey was a good one until I hit Bristol which was to say the least choc-a-block, rather than try to find my hotel I decided to drive straight to Andrew’s place, I was way too early but I thought I could do some social media shizzle. I was saved by Mum and Dad Cleaver arriving with Hetty from school. A cup of tea and some good chat saw us through to the time to go to the ground.
We caught the shuttle bus at £4 return, which was a good deal, I’d been amazed by Bristol player Jamal Ford-Robinson stopping to offer Andrew and family a lift to the ground, an offer they couldn’t take due to me being in tow, not because I had a Saracens shirt on but because the car would’ve been overloaded. It added to the realisation that this is a club that cares about and knows its fans, the many photos on Andrew’s walls had already given me that lovely impression.
We walked to the stadium and met fellow Saracens fans Colin and Barbara, who’re always a pleasure to see they were chatting animatedly to a Bristol fan. We went round to a local pub and joined more, very friendly Bristol fans, I had a very healthy tea of cheesy chips before we headed back to the stadium. It was good to see Alison and Neil staunch Saracens fans as I was heading to my seat, they must be amongst the teams’ most loyal fans.
I paid £35 for my ticket and in the very impressive Ashton Gate Stadium that gave me a seat on the halfway line with a superb view. The stadium is highly impressive, the new stand reminds me of Munster’s home Thomond Park, in fact I’m tempted to say Ashton Gate is the nicest ground in the Premiership, it certainly has some of the friendliest fans too.
And so to the rugby, Saracens travelled to Bristol on the back of a loss at The Stoop to Harlequins. Bristol had been having a baptism of fire having faced and been beaten by Harlequins (narrowly), Northampton Saints, Wasps (70-22) and Exeter and now they were facing the Premiership and European Champions.
What I’m about to say next may seem strange coming from a Saracens fan, I’d felt that the lads hadn’t been firing on all cylinders this season, a sign of that was the fact that the first half finished on Bristol 0 Saracens 10 after an Alex Lozowski try, converted by Ben Spencer in addition to a penalty hit by Spencer. The Bristol defence had been immense, but they seemed to struggle with the basics at times; I’ve never see so much discussion and time taken before a line out for example, I would have thought that kind of thing should have been sorted on the training pitch, any team failing to win their own ball is unlikely to beat a top Premiership team.
There was an inevitability about the 2nd half performance from the visitors, a team full of internationals against the newly promoted boys was bound to dominate and score the points needed for a bonus point win. A second try from Lozowski who is shining in Saracens colours in the absence of Owen Farrell was added to by Chris Wyles, Jamie George and George Kruis, seeing the visitors to the vital bonus point.
Ben Spencer who has been biding his time patiently since joining Saracens in 2011 put in a man of the match performance for me, as well as carrying out his scrum half duties with style he’s also an extremely accomplished kicker, he added a penalty and conversion to his personal tally before being substituted. Lozowski converted Wyles and Kruis’ tries, to take Saracens to 39.
And yet, that 39 didn’t really tell the tale of the game, Bristol did;t manage to get on the scoreboard, I guess it was all a bit strange that I was shouting them on when they were heading to the try line at one point, they didn’t deserve that 0.
This is a club with a high heart, I wish Bristol well for the rest of the season and although I’m not wishing relegation on another club I really hope they keep their hard fought place in the Premiership. I’m going to be posting the views of a Bristol fan in addition to my meanderings, 2 pieces to read on this game.