Robinson looking to dig in after dazzling debut

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The Independent Online

The try in question will only be unfamiliar to you if you have missed the dozens of action replays on Sky Sports, not to mention the odd national news bulletin, after Bristol's thrilling win over Bath last Sunday afternoon. The side newly promoted from National League One were seven minutes away from a demoralising if not unexpected home defeat, trailing 16-12. Then Robinson collected a pass at "second receiver" from a ruck on the left, darted between a couple of flailing forwards, skipped past three backs and - pausing for a moment to dot the ball down - buried himself in the arms of a crowd only too glad to make his acquaintance.

"Derby day disaster" was how the Bath Chronicle summed it up. Robinson - born and bred in Bath - lapped up the Memorial Stadium's mania.

"I saw the try on the little screen when I was interviewed [on Sky] afterwards," he said, "and it looked quite different to how it actually felt. I could only remember stepping Matt Perry, but it showed I did beat a couple more people along the way. I completely forgot about those."

The try and the 19-16 final scoreline means no one in Bristol will forget Robinson in a hurry. The 24-year-old, 6ft 2in wing signed from Plymouth Albion in the summer is assured of messianic status, and indeed Robinson's story is something of a second coming, if not a third.

While at school at Beechen Cliff comprehensive, a drop kick from Bath's ground at the Rec, he turned out for the club's Under-21s and United (2nd) XV, and the local junior side Walcot, but by his own admission was unworthy of making the grade. "It was hugely competitive and you've got to be really sure what you're doing. I was fizzling out, really, quite disinterested, and I wanted to get off to university in Plymouth, move away from Bath and maybe grow up a bit. In my first year at uni, I was adamant I didn't want to play rugby."

Gradually, though, the sport got him back in its clutches. He was spotted playing for the university by Albion's coach, Graham Dawe, and after two years studying for a business degree Robinson accepted the offer of a professional contract. He scored a club record-equalling 23 tries in his first season in National League One, and 11 more in his second, but in between he wrote off the summer of 2004 with a pelvic injury and needed "some good physicians to sort me out" when he feared he might not play again. Then Bristol's coach, Richard Hill, came calling.

"Things are a lot faster in the Premiership than I'm used to," Robinson said of his most recent step up the ladder. "My decisions need to be quicker and I've got to carry them out with more conviction." Hill has decided to stick with Robinson in an unchanged XV for today's trip to Newcastle but has some tough selections looming as several overseas recruits make their presence felt. Two Samoan backs - the illustrious Brian Lima and the lesser-known David Lemi - have arrived in recent days, along with an Argentinian prop, Martin Rospide, and a Fijian scrum-half, Jacob Rauluni.

"The players want me to pick the best 22 every week," said Hill. "If that means Lee does not always get a game, that's the way it is."

Lemi, a wing, will play for the A team at London Irish tomorrow. Lima, regarded by Hill as a centre, is likely to see some action against Gloucester next Sunday. Today it is in Robinson's gift to back up his dazzling debut. Last Sunday he was watched by his mum, dad and sister, who all live in Bath, but after he shared a few celebratory drinks with some old schoolfriends he retreated to the quiet anonymity of his home in Clifton to prepare for Newcastle.

"More players coming in adds more pressure for places, which I consider to be healthy," he said. "It's all about edge, and every time you train you have to prove yourself. The win has definitely given the boys a lift, but at the same time we've got to be realistic about the task ahead of us each week."

Before their relegation in 2003, Bristol had won their previous three matches against Newcastle. When Robinson is informed that the Falcons' full-back this afternoon will be Matt Burke, the World Cup-winning Australian, he says with a cautious smile: "Well, there you go... big name." But not as big, for one week at least, as Lee Robinson's.