Six from Burke halts Bristol's losing run of seven

Bristol 18 Gloucester 13
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The Independent Online
The Bristol faithful have been bemoaning a lack of passion all season, so it came as a welcome shock to see the sleeping giants of English rugby wake up with a bang in their Courage League match at the Memorial Ground last night. Mind you, few Bristol men have ever needed much excuse to roll up their sleeves against the Cherry and Whites of Gloucester. Professionalism may have changed many things but pure, undiluted West Country rivalry remains sacrosanct.

How strange, then, that the appointments panel should have asked Doug Chapman, of Scunthorpe, to referee a confrontation that was always likely to rattle a few teeth and rock a few foundations. Perhaps he thought he had been listed for a Bristol Rovers football match - the venue is home to both clubs these days, so a degree of confusion might be forgivable. Whatever, he seemed almost petrified by the crimson hue of the proceedings.

It took the referee a full 30 minutes to deliver a general warning to the captains - three minutes would have been a more sensible call - and the only saving grace from his point of view was that he had been spared the indignity of officiating in the hard old days of the 1970s, when real rogues like Mike Fry and Mike Burton used to swap pleasantries.

After seven consecutive league defeats - to make the contrast as stark as possible, Gloucester had won seven on the bounce - Bristol could not afford to contemplate anything other than victory. They achieved it through the right boot of Paul Burke, the Irish outside-half landing six penalties, two from near half-way and two more under severe pressure in the last nine minutes.

It was a brave performance by Burke in more ways than one. After 51 minutes he kicked his third penalty within seconds of receiving a heavy high tackle from Rob Fidler, the Gloucester lock. The referee showed Fidler the yellow card and there was an even bigger cheer from the Bristol partisans when the touch-judges raised their flags to signal his successful kick.

That gave Bristol a six-point lead but within three minutes, it was wiped out by a short-range try from Pete Glanville, converted by the accurate Mark Mapletoft, who then added a penalty to put the visitors in the driving seat at 13-9.

However, the Bristol forwards raised themselves sufficiently to put Burke into scoring positions and with Martin Corry, their captain, showing precisely why he is one of three uncapped players in the Lions' preliminary party named on Monday, they finally slammed the door on their most historic rivals.

Bristol: Penalties Burke 6. Gloucester: Try Glanville; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalty Mapletoft; Drop goal Catling.

Bristol: P Hull; D Tiueti, F Waters, K Maggs, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones; D Hinkins, M Regan, K Fulman, C Eagle, S Shaw, M Corry (capt), E Rollitt, C Short.

Gloucester: C Catling; M Peters, D Caskie, M Roberts, M Lloyd; M Mapletoft, S Benton; A Windo, C Fortey, A Beacon, R Fidler, D Sims (capt), P Glanville, S Devereux, N Carter.

Referee: D Chapman (Scunthorpe).