Tindall annoys the neighbours

Bristol 10 Gloucester 29
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The Independent Online

Local bragging rights are one thing, playing rights are a more important thing entirely. It is this consolation that Bristolians would doubtless have taken to their beds on Saturday following a late but ever so inevitable humbling by their West Country neighbours.

Christmas 2008 will certainly not be remembered at the Memorial Ground for the Gloucester setback; rather, it will be recalled as being the week in which the chief executive, Steve Gorvett, earned Bristol yet another stay of execution by securing new investment. It may only prove to be temporary relief for a club expected to fare even worse than their £1m loss last year - but it is relief nonetheless. And should long-term backers be located, it could just emerge as one of the more influential moments in Bristol's topsy-turvy 110-year history

However, despite all that, this defeat was still a case of after the life-saving cheques coming the reality check. If there is a worthwhile future for the “C'mon Bris” brigade, then Richard Hill's team must surely beat the drop and this round of Guiness Premiership fixtures did them no favours. The Cherry and Whites clinically picked them off with three tries in the final 11 minutes and that all added up to no losing bonus point. And when news came that Newcastle had drawn with Worcester some swift calculations told them that were now three points adrift at the bottom again, having making up plenty of recent ground on the Falcons.

Hill's optimism remains unaffected, however. The coach long ago targeted the February 13 collision with Newcastle as “loser goes down” and he sees no reason to revise this opinion. "Our chances are still good,“ he said. “We have got Newcastle and Worcester to play at home, which are clearly games we've got to win. This was just a poor game from our point of view. The pressure began to tell on us in the second half, and Mike Tindall's first try broke the back of us."

In truth, their spine had been creaking ever since the fourth minute when the full-back Olly Morgan jived his way past four defenders. For the next 65 minutes they did little more than cling on, although there was at least a 10-minute spell in the second-half when they did seem capable of something more than containment.

But then Tindall found a defence-splitting angle, then big Lesley Vainikolo took advantage of the home meltdown and not even a typically opportunistic interception by David Lemi with a minute of injury-time remaining was enough to turn off the floodlights,. When Tindall picked up a bouncing ball from the replacement scrum-half Dave Lewis and span towards the line with seconds remaining there was clearly only one thing in his focus - bonus point. It was all his excellence deserved.

What price a Tindall recall for the England Six nations squad? A veteran, maybe, but the centre is still only 30 and purely on the evidence of this finale his inclusion should be a given.

Scoring: Bristol: Try Lemi. Con Jarvis. Pen Barnes. Gloucester: Tries Morgan, Tindall (2), Vainikolo. Cons Barkley, Lamb (2). Pen Lamb.

Bristol: L Arscott; L Robinson, Neil Brew, L Eves (Nathan Brew 65), D Lemi; E Barnes (A Jarvis 65), S Perry (capt); D Crompton, S Linklater (M Regan 41), J Hobson (M Irish 51), M Sambucetti (D Attwood 64), R Sidoli, N Budgett (J Phillips 64), A To'oala, D Ward-Smith. Replacement not used: G Beveridge.

Sin-binned: Perry (39-48, killing the ball).

Gloucester Rugby: O Morgan; M Watkins, M Tindall (capt), O Barkley, L Vainikolo; R Lamb, R Lawson (D Lewis 51); N Wood (A Dickinson 78), O Azam (A Titterrell 80), C Nieto, W James (A Eustace 74), A Brown, A Strokosch, A Satala, L Narraway. Replacements not used: M Bortolami, W Walker, M Foster.

Referee: D Rose.

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