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Bear Country column - a fan's view on the West Country derby

Bears blogger, Will Reid, author of Bear Country, reflects on his memories of the West Country derby and why this fixture matters more than most.

Let’s be honest, we all look out for this one first on the fixture list, don’t we?

All games matter, and especially with our lofty goals and ambitions, every game is important.

But the old derby against Bath always seems to matter most.

October 1888 was the first time we went to battle with our closest geographical rivals, and from that point on the competition in this historic fixture has grown and grown.

From a Bristolian point of view, it’s the history that makes the match such an important event. Each time you watch Bristol versus Bath, you know that you’re witnessing another dramatic chapter in the famous book of derbies between the two huge rugby cities.

Each occasion brings an unforgettable moment. That infamous Lee Robinson breakaway that left a packed Memorial Ground on their feet, or Alapati Leuia juggling the ball before sliding over in the South Stand corner at Ashton Gate on our return to the Premiership as the Bears.

But there was a period of time where these derbies were few and far between. It’s a testament to how far we have come as a club over the last five years that now not only do we have regular derbies, but we’re actually regularly successful in them.

Our last three matches against Bath have brought three wins. As Bears fans who didn’t get a shot against their closest rivals for a long time, that feels pretty incredible.

But what makes this derby so important for both sets of fans? Bragging rights.

And that’s amplified by the proximity of the two clubs.

In most games, you take the result, good or bad, and park it. There’s no lingering reminder of the joy or pain you might experience.

For Bris and Bath fans, there’s no such luck.

Because for as fierce as our rivalry is, both sets of supporters live amongst each other. They’re our co-workers, bosses, friends and even family.

And the idea of enduring months of teasing, banter and endless jokes about being on the losing side doesn’t bear thinking about.

But the best thing about the old derby?

It’s proper rugby.

Two historic clubs, two passionate fanbases, going to-to-toe for 80 minutes for the honour of owning our corner of the West Country, before sharing a pint or two together afterwards.

Rivalry, passion, and pride.

There’s nothing quite like Bristol vs Bath.

Up the Bears.

Check out Will's blog by clicking here.


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