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Neil Williams


Posted Thursday, October 17th 2019

Stat attack: Ashton Gate's ding-dong derbies

After the longest of pre-seasons, we finally get down to the serious business of Gallagher Premiership rugby this Friday.

This will be the sixth time that the clubs have played each other at Ashton Gate in a league match, no other opposition club has featured in more.

Results of previous league games against Bath at Ashton Gate:

Lee Robinson in action for Bristol against Bath.

As you can see, all previous games on paper have been pretty close affairs, as you would expect in a local rivalry which stretches all the way back to 27th October 1888, almost 131 years.

Ollie Barkley is leading scorer in the series with 30 of Bath’s 66 points, kicking three conversions and eight penalties.

Shane Drahm leads the way for Bris with 15 points, closely followed by Gavin Hanson and Ian Madigan who have 12 each.

The mercurial Felipe Contepomi is the only player from either side to cross the whitewash twice.

With a sell-out crowd this evening the game will set another record attendance for a match at the renovated Ashton Gate. The fourth time in this series of games that the club’s highest attendance has been set. 

The club had played six unofficial games under the Ashton Gate floodlights between 1956 and 1960, Cardiff and Harlequins twice, a Tony O’Reilly invitation XV and Old Belvedere from Dublin. But the first official game was in 2003.

Gavin Henson kicks Bristol to victory in 2017.

It’s common place for clubs to take a home game to a neutral venue these days but back in 2003 it was a bold and controversial decision to move a game from the Memorial Stadium. The highest attendance at the Mem that season was 10,693 against our other great West Country rivals Gloucester. So almost doubling the crowd to 20,000+ totally vindicated the decision and the supporters were treated to a thriller.    

All Bristol-Bath games are important to the supporters of both sides, but this game was vitally important as going into the penultimate league game of the season both clubs were on 32 points just ahead of London Irish.

It is well documented what was happening off the field at the time and this added to the usual local derby tension. A delayed start of 15 minutes due to congestion in and around Ashton Gate stoked things even more and from the start the atmosphere was electric.

Both sets of players were up for the match as well with the first half finishing equal at 13 points apiece. All Black centre Daryl Gibson crossed for a try which was converted by Shane Drahm. The Aussie, playing full back that day, added two penalties. In return flanker Gavin Thomas scored a try, converted by Ollie Barkley who also added two penalties.

Not for the first time, the second half became the Felipe Contepomi show. He scored his first try around the hour mark after good build up work from Gus Pichot, Davis Rees, Michael Lipman and Emiliano Bergamaschi. With the Bath defense stretched his fellow Argentinian prop put Felipe through a hole and he burst through to the try line with Drahm adding the extras.

Close to the end Bath were pressing near to the Bristol line, but a loose pass from Gareth Cooper to Iain Balshaw was picked off by Contepomi, and despite having a foot heavily bandaged he set off on a 90-metre dash upfield. Barkley did his best to chase back but just failed. Drahm added a fine conversion.

There was still time for Bath to hit back and former Bristol Colts and U21 captain Kevin Maggs scored with time almost up. Barkley added the two points.

With the last play of the game Drahm landed a drop goal from just about the half line to deny the side along A4 a bonus point. It was the first time that Bristol had done the double over their close rivals in a league match.

The Christmas win in 2006 featured a try from Lee Robinson. The burly winger had established a reputation for scoring in big games and particularly against Bath. Welsh lock Gareth Llewellyn, who at the time was his countries most capped international also scored a try, with All Black fly half David Hill adding two penalties. The attendance set another record for a Premiership game outside of Twickenham and the win took the club back to the top of the table before eventually finishing third.

Bath won their only game in 2008, in a match that seemed to sum up Bristol’s season, lackluster and jaded. The one high light being the reunion of the 1983 cup winning team.

After an almost nine-year break matches resumed at Ashton Gate in 2017 with Gavin Henson kicking three penalties and a drop goal to see us home by just a single point. Gav literally put the boot into one of his many former clubs.

Last season, as this, the clubs opened the Gallagher Premiership under Friday night lights. A try by Alapati Leiua and four penalties by Ian Madigan gave the club the perfect start to the season.