Man in shade sheds light

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The Independent Online
KYRAN BRACKEN, shunted into the sidings by England, got back on track at Goldington Road yesterday with a powerful Pilkington Cup performance that earned Bristol a plum home quarter-final tie against their West Country rivals Bath.

Bracken, jettisoned by England after South Africa ran riot at Twickenham last November, reminded the selectors that he still has much to offer by muscling over for two early tries to subdue and then kill off the challenge of Second Division side Bedford.

In truth, it was not much of a challenge. Bedford might have spent pounds 1,000 hiring a revolutionary pitch cover to ensure that the game went ahead but they failed to apply the same determination to the encounter itself.

Instead they allowed Bracken to call the early tune to such a decisive extent that by the time the home side mounted its first decent attack, Bristol were 27-0 in front, the game was into its second period and the contest itself was dead and buried.

Bracken pounced in the fourth minute to exploit an opening created by maligned England hooker Mark Regan and promising No 8 Eben Rollitt. And before the first quarter was up he had again ploughed over from short distance, this time with help from his marauding pack.

He did have pain to go with his gain when he took a nasty blow to the head on the half-hour mark. In an attempt to subdue the galavanting scrum- half, Bedford stand-off Fran Clough appeared to catch Bracken with a short arm, although referee Tony Spreadbury did not consider it serious enough to speak to the veteran England centre.

That incident was about as much fight as Bedford displayed in the opening half, Garath Archer stealing a third try and Mark Tainton, deputising for the unavailable Arwel Thomas, adding a second penalty goal to his tally of three conversions.

Harsh words in the home camp at the interval produced a more combative display and Bedford salvaged a measure of self-respect by the way in which they held the big Bristol eight at bay, even if they threatened next to nothing themselves.

Regan, still at odds with his line-out throwing, had the solace of a smart try on 66 minutes as Bedford finally cracked after Archer had won good touchline ball 15 metres out. And seven minutes later Ben Breeze crossed on the left to complete the rout.

Bedford: M Cook; G Witheat, B Whetstone (A Goldsmith, 29), M Oliver, P Allen; F Clough, R Stone; L Mansell, M Roach, C Roberts, M Upex, K Simpson, M Deans, A Mortimore, M Wright.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); J Keyter, S Martin, K Maggs, M Denney, (B Breeze, 50); M Tainton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, P Adams, G Archer, M Corry, (B Armstrong, 53), I Dixon, E Rollitt

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).