The bookies are predicting a long, hard season for Bristol in the Premiership. This result will have done nothing to suggest they have got things wrong.
To be fair to the head coach, Richard Hill, he was not looking for excuses. "We were well beaten by a good side," he said. "Our players were massively up for it and played to the best of their ability. I could not ask anymore of them. We haven't set any goals for this season – that's too dangerous. This is the toughest Premiership ever and we've had the same squad for two or three years. We'll see where we are after five games and take it from there."
Bath, without a win at the Memorial Ground since 1998, gave their neighbours a seven-point start and gradually overhauled them thanks to their dominance of the set piece and the influence of Springbok fly-half Butch James.
Although Andrew Blowers scored with less than two minutes on the clock, Bath gradually began to find their bearings and James, fresh from South Africa's rather mixed Tri-Nations campaign, clipped over a 14th-minute penalty after Junior Fatialofa greeted his compatriot, Eliota Fuimaono-sapolu, with a head-high tackle. Adrian Jarvis was offered a chance of a penalty from 50 metres but the effort fell short.
Forced onto the defensive again, Bristol bundled Matt Stevens into touch at the corner but Bath added to their lead on 17 minutes. An ill-directed cut clearance found full-back Nick Abendanon, who sent Joe Maddock on a well-timed run to the line through a clutch of defenders.
The visitors used their dominance of the lineout to create a sweet try on the half hour. A decoy move in midfield let Matt Banahan stride through untouched before supplying young Welsh centre Tom Cheeseman with the scoring pass.
Bristol's riposte on 37 minutes came after David Lemi tracked back to collect a Michael Claasens clearance on his own 10-metre line. The little Samoan beat one defender after another before chipping to the line and beating Maddock to the bounce.
James fired over three penalties in 13 minutes after the restart, Jarvis replying with a 40-metre effort for Bristol, but Bath clinched victory on 55 minutes with a stunning counter-attack.
Tom Arscott chipped over the Bath defence but Abendanon was quickest to the bounce, wriggled free of a tackle and found Fuimaono-sapolu with an overhead pass. The ball was moved right to forwards Peter Short and Justin Harrison to number eight Jonny Faamatuainu who cut in field and strode 40 metres to the line.
Bristol: Tries Blowers, Lemi; Cons Jarvis 2. Pens Jarvis 2. Bath: Tries Maddock, Cheeseman, Faamatuainu. Cons James 3. Pens James 4.
Bristol: L Arscott; T Arscott, Fatialofa (Barden, 40), Maggs (Barnes, 65), Lemi; Jarvis, Thomas; Irish, Linklater, Hobson (Bracken, 65), Budgett, Sidoli, Blowers (Sambucetti, 65), El Abd (C), Ward-Smith.
Bath: Abendanon; Maddock (Cuthbert, 74), Cheeseman (Berne, 75), Fuimaono-sapolu, Banahan; James, Claasens (C) (Bemand, 75); Barnes (Flatman, 57), Mears (Dixon, 65), Stevens (Bell, 65), Harrison, Short, Hooper, Scaysbrook (Ovens, 78), Faamatuainu.
Referee: C White (RFU)
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