Rugby Union: Bristol down in history

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The Independent Online
Bristol 15

London Scottish 17 London Scottish win 46-40 on agg

RUGBY's new professional age claimed its biggest casualty yesterday, as Bristol tamely surrendered their First Division status.

There was joy for the travelling London Scottish supporters as they secured a place in the Allied Dunbar Premiership One next season, but on the Memorial Ground terraces there was the expectant sorrow of a long and lingering death in the family. Having escaped relegation in last season's play-offs, it was asking too much for salvation this time round for a club that was not so long ago bracketed among the greatest in the land.

The only change in the Scottish line up from the team who won the first leg 29-25 a week ago saw the introduction of the Australian Under-21 full- back Iain McAusland for Derrick Lee.

Lee, an inspirational figure in that game until sent off for punching David Corkery, has joined the Scotland tour to Fiji and Australia and will face a disciplinary hearing on his return. McAusland fully justified his inclusion, opening the scoring with a penalty after three minutes and delivering the final blow a couple of minutes from the end with a drop-goal.

Understandably, in view of what was at stake, both sides displayed signs of tension in a rash of handling errors and a propensity to give away penalties.

Ireland fly-half Paul Burke was responsible for all Bristol's points and kicked the first of his five penalties after 14 minutes. At one time Bristol were 9-3 ahead - two points in front on aggregate - but that advantage was only momentary as the Exiles fashioned a beautifully worked try in the 32nd minute.

Fly-half Jamie Cameron cut through on the blind side of a scrum, drew the full-back and delivered an inside pass for the left win Conan Sharman to score the only try of the game. However, McAusland failed on the conversion and Cameron was forced off with a leg injury .

Burke's fourth penalty on the stroke of half-time left the playoff nicely poised 37-37 on aggregate, but McAusland upped the ante with a successful penalty straight after the restart.

If any incident summed up Bristol's frustration it came in the 45th minute when Burke stretched for the line only to lose the ball in the act of scoring. His fifth penalty, scored as the game entered the last quarter, brought the aggregate scores level again, but what Bristol desperately needed was a try.

What they didn't need was to see McAusland edge the aggregate Scottish's way once again with a penalty, and as the minutes ticked away the panic set in. Even as experienced a performer as the former Wales and Lions scrum-half Robert Jones flung a pass over his winger's head into touch.

McAusland's drop-goal gave Scottish a deserved second victory in seven days, while Bristol must now prepare themselves for Division Two next season.

Bristol: P Hull; D Yapp, S Martin, K Maggs, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones; M Worsley (J Wring, 57), F Landreau, K Fullman, C Eagle, A Charron, D Corkery (E Rollitt, 57), J Brownrigg, C Short.

London Scottish: I McAusland; R Todd, R Davies, R Eriksson, C Sharman; J Cameron (C Wright, 33), D Millard; P Johnstone, J Allan, P Burnell, R Hunter, M Watson (E Jones, 71), S Fenn, C Tarbuck, S Holmes.

Referee: G Hughes (Sandbach).