After Bristol Bears’ magnificent 47-10 win against Northampton on Tuesday night it made me reflect on what a great time it is to be a fan of our city’s rugby club.
I’ve lived here since the 1990s and during the past 25 years it has been a pretty tough gig being a Bristol supporter.
We have seen the club go bust, lose the ownership of the Memorial Stadium and spend the best part of a decade in the wilderness of the Championship, English rugby’s second tier.
But since the move to Ashton Gate under Steve Lansdown’s ownership, things have been on the up. We have a stadium to be proud of, magnificent new training facilities, an inspirational director of rugby and a team that is brimming with exciting players.
Since the Gallagher Premiership season resumed in August, I have shifted my perspective from feeling like the Bears were imposters at the top of the table to truly believing we have a team that is capable of competing at the highest levels of European club rugby.
Tuesday’s night victory was Bristol’s biggest ever home win in the Premiership and the ninth victory in the last eleven league games.
The addition of proven internationals like Semi Radradra, Kyle Sinckler and Ben Earl have taken a good squad to the next level.
It’s not just the fact that the team are winning, it is the style of rugby they are playing that has got fans smiling from ear to ear.
But what we’ve also added to our game is the ability to win ‘ugly’ when free-flowing rugby has been closed down by opponents. The recent 16-12 win over Saracens at Ashton Gate proved this team’s ability to adapt and succeed.
In this crazy 14-month season we still have so much excitement in store. A very winnable European Challenge Cup quarter final in a couple of weeks against Dragons and the prospect of making the end of season league play-offs.
The unrelenting fixture schedule to complete the season does mean the Bristol, like all other clubs, are having to rotate players and sacrifice the odd game.
We saw this when a second XV were easily beaten at Sale a couple of weeks ago and I think the same fate may await our visit to Wasps this weekend.
But don’t let the odd blip take anything away from the fact that we are seeing the rise of a powerful sporting force in our great city. Let the good times roll.
Tony Cox is the co-host of Bears Beyond The Gate, a weekly Bristol Bears podcast made by fans for fans. Listen to the latest episode at bearsbeyondthegate.buzzsprout.com, and follow Tony and the team on Twitter at @bearsbeyondgate
Main photo: JMP
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