Dean Ryan has never been afraid to front things up, but while he might have wanted to have led a lynch party to string up stand-in referee Tim Miller of the London Society, the Bristol director of rugby is only too aware that if anyone is going to be hanged it will be Ryan himself for lambasting the official's performance.
Miller had been senior touch judge, but was then appointed referee by the RFU after Steve Lander pulled out through illness, with Ed Morrison, now retired from active duty, taking over on the touchline.
"That was a disgraceful refereeing appointment," fumed Ryan after watching his side concede a mystifying penalty in the eighth minute of added time which turned a narrow home victory into a disappointing draw. "He was out of his depth."
Ryan's beef was as much with the system as with the individual. "They [the RFU] found out at 9 o'clock this morning, we were told at 12 o'clock. There is no contingency plan when a referee drops out. How can we call the Premiership the best in the world when we just pull out anybody who is around on a Sunday morning? That we end up with this referee is unacceptable. We cannot ever recover those two points."
Morrison defended Miller though and insisted: "He is one of the top 20 referees in this country and would only be appointed to Premiership or National League One games."
As to the game itself, that too was below standard. Bristol had a poor first half and a mediocre second thanks mainly to a David Rees try a minute after the interval and a second from Spencer Brown midway through the half.
Irish had an acceptable start, but faded away in the second half. Thankfully the defence stayed around long enough to keep out a resurgent Bristol, who showed far more imagination when they replaced their stand-off Shane Drahm with Argentinian Felipe Contepomi at half-time.
From the outset Drahm was obsessed with cut-out passes; every time he had the ball in the opening 10 minutes he was determined to keep it away from his inside centre Jason Little.
Because of that there were a few of moments of what might be termed "high Drahma", the last of which led to London Irish's first try when Justin Bishop intercepted a well-telegraphed miss-pass by Drahm and sprinted 40 metres to the line for Barry Everitt to convert.
The only other moment of note in a dull first half came courtesy of Everitt, who had entered the game with a 100 per cent record from 17 place kicks. He had added an 18th before failing with his 19th attempt of the season.
Bristol had more shape after they turned around, but Irish had enough spirit and Everitt's boot to secure a vital draw. That came in the eighth minute of injury time when the Limerick man stuck the ball nervelessly between the uprights.
Bristol: Tries Rees, Brown; Penalties Drahm 2, Contepomi.
London Irish: Try Bishop; Conversion Everitt; Penalties Everitt 4.
Bristol: L Best (A Cadwallader, 76); D Rees, P Christophers, J Little (capt), S Brown (R Blake, 80); S Drahm, A Pichot; P Johnstone, N McCarthy, J White, G Archer, A Brown, J Brownrigg (M Salter, 58), B Sturnham, C Short.
London Irish: M Horak; J Cunningham, J Bishop, B Venter, P Sackey; B Everitt, D Edwards; M Worsley (N Hatley, 49), N Drotske (R Kirke, 49), S Halford (R Hardwick, 49), R Strudwick, (capt), J Fahrensohn (G Delaney, 63)), J Cockle (R Bates, 54), C Sheasby, K Dawson.
Referee: T Miller (London).Reuse content