Barnes boosts tight-knit Bristol's survival fight

Worcester 20 Bristol 20
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Bristol suggested that their financial problems have brought their players closer together with a performance that bristled with pride and passion at Sixways on Saturday.

It was not quite enough to bring Bristol their first away win in nine months nor to haul them off the foot of the table. But Ed Barnes's penalty with the very last kick of the match secured two precious points and rewarded Bristol for their persistence.

"Newcastle got nothing when they came here and we have picked up two so we are beginning to claw our way back inch by inch and Christmas will be a bit more enjoyable," the Bristol coach Richard Hill said.

Avoiding a third spell in National League One in the last 10 years is Bristol's first objective. Finding additional funding to keep them there will be more difficult, but Hill has apprised his players of the bleak financial forecasts and is full of admiration for their professionalism.

"With all the uncertainty the players have held themselves together very well," Hill said. "Whatever has happened I have been very honest with them and I think they appreciate that honesty.

"They are absolutely committed to keeping Bristol in the Premiership, that is their number one job. After that they have other things to sort out.

"If they were not such a tight group, then they would probably be quite selfish and look after their own interests and not give everything on the field.

"But there was no lack of commitment for the cause today. I have no doubt that this group will stick together and try and battle out. There will be no lack of fight to try to keep us up."

Dan Ward-Smith typified Bristol's fighting spirit, organising a back row lacking a specialist open-side and scoring the 97th league try of his career.

The No 8's career has stalled since he suffered a serious knee injury two years ago when he was lined up to win his first England cap and it has taken time for his confidence and form to be restored.

Only four other players have scored 100 career Premiership or National League tries and Ward-Smith could soon become the first forward to gain membership of this most exclusive club.

Ward-Smith was filling a gap on the right wing caused by the sending of Lee Robinson to the sin-bin when Worcester out-muscled Bristol's seven-man pack and were awarded a penalty try. A late score from former Australia international Chris Latham appeared to have condemned Bristol to their eighth defeat of the season but a high tackle on David Lemi opened the door for Barnes.

"Our goal-kicking percentages have not been very good – around 60 per cent – so it was by no means a guaranteed kick , but Ed kept his nerve for the team," Hill said.

Worcester: Tries Penalty try, Latham; Conversions Hickey 2; Penalties Hickey 2. Bristol: Tries Ward-Smith, Robinson; Conversions Barnes 2; Penalties Barnes 2

Worcester: C Latham; R Gear, D Rasmussen, S Tuitupou, C Pennell; E Hickey, M Powell (R Powell, 67): M Mullan, A Lutui, T Taumoepeau (C Horsman, 62), G Rawlinson, C Gillies, N Talei, P Sanderson (capt), K Horstmann.

Bristol: L Arscott; L Robinson, N Brew, L Eves, D Lemi; E Barnes, S Perry (capt); A Clarke (Hobson, 75), M Regan (S Linklater, 62), J Hobson (D Crompton, 52), M Sambucetti (D Attwood, 66), R Sidolo, N Budgett, A To'oala, D Ward-Smith.

Referee: W Barnes (London).