Hull finds silver lining in relegated Bristol's dark day

London Irish 38 Bristol 21
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The Independent Online

Paul Hull has been to hell and back over the last few weeks since taking over from Richard Hill as head coach of a less than shipshape Bristol, and finally the unstoppable happened when they were relegated out of the Premiership on Saturday. They went down fighting, but they went down to a London Irish side that still has ambitions to qualify for the play-offs.

The drop into National League One came as no surprise to Hull. He had been preparing for it for some time and saw it as an inevitability. "Watching Bristol head towards relegation has been a slow sort of pain," he said after the six-try trouncing. "I have had my head around this for a little while and while there was a mathematical chance, a glimmer of hope, it was always a long-shot."

But Hull reckons Bristol are in better shape now than the last time they were relegated, that was in 2003, when again the drop was confirmed with a thumping defeat at the Madejski Stadium by the Exiles. "I know it is disappointing today but I am really looking forward to the challenge next year," he said. "I feel there is a good future for the club and I wouldn't do the job if I felt there wasn't a future. For the last couple of weeks I have been signing players, so we have a squad that is ready to play now."

Last time around there were perhaps three or four players left after relegation who were going to stay at Bristol in the first division. "Back then the re-staffing was not put into place until the coaching staff was hired. We are miles ahead of that. We are building now. We know what we have to face next season."

Bristol also know what faces London Irish's remaining opponents, Northampton and Worcester this season. The fact that the Exiles will be away for each fixture will do nothing to reassure their opponents.

Once Irish shook off their complacency and their dogged opponents they displayed a clinical and ruthless nature which saw their burgeoning right wing, the talented Adam Thompstone, score two tries, lock Nick Kennedy also touched down twice, with flanker Steffon Armitage and scrum-half Paul Hodgson grabbing the other two.

London Irish: Tries Kennedy 2, S Armitage, Thompstone 2, Hodgson; Conversion D Armitage; Penalties Homer 2 .

Bristol: Tries Linklater, Lemi, Eves; Conversions T Arscott 2.

London Irish: T Homer (P Richards, h-t); A Thompstone, D Armitage, S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau (T Ojo, 69); M Catt (capt; P Hewat, 24), P Hodgson; C Dermody, D Paice (D Coetzee,

62), R Skuse (T Lea'aetoa, 27-37 & 62), N Kennedy, J Hudson, D Danaher (R Thorpe, 52), S Armitage, C Hala'ufia (K Roche, 75).

Bristol: L Arscott; L Robinson, L Eves, J Fatialofa (G Barden, 76), T Arscott; E Barnes (D Lemi, 50), H Thomas (S Perry, h-t); M Irish, S Linklater (O Hayes, 76), D Crompton (W Thompson, h-t), M Sambucetti (R Winters, 50), R Sidoli, R Pennycook, J El-Abd (A To'oala, 40+4), D Ward-Smith.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).