Kyle Sinckler responds to Lions snub with man-of-the-match performance as Bristol book play-off spot
Max Malins may have scored two tries to help Bristol secure their play-off place, but it was Kyle Sinckler’s performance – just days after being omitted from the Lions squad – that laid the platform for the Bears’ comeback.
Sinckler did not hold back after the game, explaining that he used his emotions including a level of anger he admitted he had never experienced before to help steer his side to a first Premiership win at the Recreation Ground, and the tighthead had Eddie Jones watching.
“I am not going to lie – I am emotional,” he told BT Sport immediately after the final whistle.
Referring to his Lions snub, he continued: “I kind of understand the reasons why, but in a year or two’s time I will be back on it and it will all make sense. Right now it doesn’t make sense. I have never experienced something like this in my career.
“It has been tough, but I wanted to show the kids, and everyone at home, how much it means to me and not throw my toys out of the pram.”
“I wanted to use that anger. I have never had so much anger inside me and I used it in a positive way to do what is best for the team.”
Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam was stunned by Sinckler’s omission.
"It was a big shock. Why was it a shock? Because I think every pundit had him in. Every single person had him in the squad, but the way he handled himself was superb,” said Lam.
The coach hinted that Sinckler may yet find himself on a plane to South Africa. "To play like he did today was a credit to him. He will keep working hard, and you never know - there is a lot of rugby to be played between now and then [Lions departure for South Africa]. At least the Lions selectors know they have got a person ready to go.
"He will bounce back. It is a big moment for him as a rugby player, but also as a man."
Sinckler certainly showed no signs of a player sulking, shown by his imperious display in the scrum in the second half which led, close to the hour, to Bath having only 18 per cent of possession. However, it would be unfair to mark how the hosts were outmuscled in the as the story of the match because at half-time Stuart Hooper’s men held a 15-7 lead but Bath showed a toughness in fighting against early Bristol period of attack.
Bristol began the game as league leaders and it seemed like Lam had decided to throw the kitchen sink at this fixture – with the quality of backs at his disposal – in order to fit Malins into his back line.
Former All Black Charles Piutau started at full-back and Wales international Callum Sheedy started at fly-half, allowing the Saracens loanee to make his senior debut on the wing.
And he looked to have made his mark with the opening try, but he was deemed to have knocked on and referee Luke Pearce’s signalling of no try seemed to give what looked a shaky-looking Bath side some confidence.
The blue, black and whites, who were demolished at the line-out by Montpellier in their Challenge Cup semi-final, seemed to take heart from Bristol’s early inability to convert their chances.
And they were first on the scoresheet after 11 minutes, with newly-named Lion Anthony Watson showing all the class of a two-time tourist to pounce on a Bristol knock-on.
Rhys Priestland, who had not started for Bath since March, made an early 10-minute cameo as a head injury replacement for starting fly-half Orlando Bailey and made a brilliant read, against the run of play, and nabbed a rapid interception try.
The sign that the momentum was drifting away from the hosts came when Nathan Hughes crashed over for a try late in the first half and it seemed to give Bristol a psychological boost.
It was Bath’s scrum and ill-discipline which led to their decline after the break. Although there would have been an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu early in the second half as Bristol had another try disallowed as former Australia international Luke Morahan knocked on metres short of the line, before Bristol went cross-field for Hughes to finish.
But from there on, Bristol were in cruise control. A penalty try came quickly after that missed attempt . Semi Radradra was also in daunting form in the second half as Bath, a man down when hooker Tom Dunn was sent off for a high tackle on the Fijian, struggled for the rest of the game. They were already jaded, having lost Juan Schoeman for 10 minutes in the early stages of the second half, and that allowed space for Malins to go over for his brace of tries – no doubt England head coach Jones would have been impressed with the player’s versatility.
Piutau also added to the visitors’ tally before Watson went over for a consolation try.
But with Sinckler a nuisance all through, he will no doubt as Lam indicated, he will have given the Lions selectors a reminder of what they will be missing in South Africa.
Scoring: 5-0 Watson try, 10-0 Priestland try, 12-0 Spencer con; 15-0 Spencer pen; 15-5 Hughes try, 15-7 Sheedy con; 15-14 Penalty try; 15-19 Malins try, 15-21 Sheedy con; 15-26 C Piatau try, 15-28 Sheedy con; 20-28 Watson try, 20-23 Earl try, 20-35 Sheedy, 40-20 Malins try.
Bath: T De Glanville; A Watson, M Clark, C Redpath, W Muir (A Gray 64); O Bailey (R Priestland 8-18, 50), B Spencer (W Chudley 64); J Schoeman (), T Dunn (?), W Stuart (C Judge 35-), J McNally (captain), E Stooke (C Ewels 51), J Bayliss (J Bhatti 51-61, J Du Toit 73), M Reid, T Faletau.
Bristol: C Piutau; L Morahan, S Radradra, S Piutau (A Leiua ?), M Malins; C Sheedy, A Uren ; Y Thomas (J Woolmore 59), B Byrne (J Kerr 59), K Sinckler (J Afoa 59), Attwood, C Vui, S Luatua (capt), B Earl, N Hughes (J Heenan 52).
Referee: Luke Pearce
Sinckler's post-match interview
That was a very moving interview
You can see how much it meant to Sinckler. Gutted to miss out on the Lions but spoke so well. Will post it here if it pops up soon.
Man of the match Kyle Sinckler speaks, and quite brilliantly
It's been an emotional week, especially for myself. I want to thank my team-mates, my family, my loved ones. From a team's perspective, how good. First half wasn't great, and then second half we dug in and showed much it meant to us and the fans.I'm not going to lie, I'm quite emotional right now. It's been tough, it means so much to me. Right now it kind of doesn't make sense, but I want to lead by example. How easy would it have been to throw my toys out the pram. It's been so tough, I'm just so lucky to have a good support team around me. I want to use the anger in a positive way.
What it all means
Bristol 12 points clear at the top, while Bath miss out on the chance to overtake London Irish in sixth place.
TRY MALINS! FULL-TIME: Bath 20-40 Bristol
That clock's red but Bristol aren't stopping even in the rain. Through the hands to Malins who fends off Gray and steps through, sliding from far out over the line for his second. Deadly.
Tell you what, Bristol have pulled some response out the bag here in the second half. Bath ripped apart upfront and finished off by Bristol's backs. Lloyd from out wide can't convert but it doesn't matter, Bristol have qualified for the play-offs with four rounds to go.
78 mins - Bath 20-35 Bristol
Bath attack but it's turned over, Lloyd tries to run it out from deep before Uren thumps the ball downfield... but too far, dropout for Bath.
76 mins - Bath 20-35 Bristol
Bath need a couple of scores to get a bonus point and another try is still on the cards for a BP too, so no reason to stop playing. They get a penalty and kick deep to touch.
Sinckler, excluded by the Lions, named man of the match.
Watson goes airborne
TRY EARL! Bath 20-35 Bristol
Try number five off the maul and that should be that. Bristol's set-piece since the half-hour mark has been superior and it's showing now on the scoreboard. Sheedy converts.
73 mins - Bath 20-28 Bristol
Ellis on for his 100th Bath game as the excellent Bayliss and Reid are replaced. Another Bristol penalty and they kick to the corner...
71 mins - Bath 20-28 Bristol
Uren slices through! That puts Bristol right back on the attack. Penalty for Bristol and Dunn might be in trouble for a shoulder to the head... it's a red card for the shoulder to the head of Radradra. That might be the end of his season after an earlier ban against London Irish.
TRY WATSON! Bath 20-28 Bristol
Penalty for Bath, Bristol also marched backwards for a few afters, and Bath are in prime position. Lineout in the corner, chipped over to the wing by Priestland and Watson beats Lloyd in the air to score! Interesting. Game on. Lloyd all out of position there and Watson's too good in the air to waste a chance like that. Priestland can't convert.
65 mins - Bath 15-28 Bristol
De Glanville gets away with one, took the ball back into his own 22 and then kicked out on the full into touch, but wasn't spotted. Bristol lineout in their own half.
TRY C PIUTAU! Bath 15-28 Bristol
Almost a carbon copy except this time Watson takes down Radradra. Bristol five metres short but Bath are offside. Vui crashes up, now Attwood.
Numbers out to the right but Charles Piutau doesn't need them! An arcing run and he's over for the bonus point. Order restored. Sheedy converts.
61 mins - Bath 15-21 Bristol
Bath back to a full XV as Bayliss returns, but Priestland's had a shocker sending a 22 dropout on the full. Bristol scrum from the middle of the field on Bath's 22. This spells trouble...
59 mins - Bath 15-21 Bristol
This Bristol scrum is relentless, winning yet another penalty, the fifth at the scrum. The Bears have had over 80 per cent possession in this half as they send on the subs.
TRY MALINS! Bath 15-21 Bristol
What crisis? Bristol exploit the space on the left, C Piutau straightens, Radradra fixes the outside defender and Malins dives low, and early, to slide over for the try. Bristol ahead. Sheedy from out wide curls the conversion round superbly and Bristol lead for the first time.
55 mins - Bath 15-14 Bristol
Bath pinged for not rolling away - doing what they can to contain Radradra who's gone up a few gears. Physios on for treatment but then Bristol will go for the scrum, understandably after the devastation we saw a few minutes ago. Bhatti on for Bayliss with Bath still down a man.
52 mins - Bath 15-14 Bristol
Soft penalty given away by Stooke and Bristol kick to touch in Bath's half. Ewels and Priestland on for the hosts.
Bristol are pumping now, surging deep into Bath's 22, before Bath do well to get a turnover and Bristol clears. But the visitors are on the up. Good work by Reid on the counter-ruck to force the turnover.
PENALTY TRY! Bath 15-14 Bristol
It was coming. Schoeman in real bother on that loosehead side under pressure from Sinckler, and that's a yellow card for Schoeman too. Bristol surge forward at the scrum and Luke Pearce awards the penalty try to cut the gap to a point.
49 mins - Bath 15-7 Bristol
Byrne stopped inches short after the maul, time off... did Reid do enough to stop a Bristol try? Yep. Held up by Reid, Bristol scrum five metres out.
48 mins - Bath 15-7 Bristol
Bristol's scrum on the up here, Sinckler getting stuck into Schoeman. No Obano remember, who's suspended, and Bristol are hurting Bath now at the set-piece. From the penalty they kick to the corner...
46 mins - Bath 15-7 Bristol
Another Bristol try being ruled out here. Morahan so close to the line and knocks on metres short trying to roll it back, before Bristol go cross-field for Hughes to finish. Warning signs though for Bath, who have a scrum five metres from their line. The build-up passes from Bristol were superb.
42 mins - Bath 15-7 Bristol
Good kick through by Clark, who's played well today coming in at centre. Finds touch on Bristol's 22, before the visitors clear long.
But it's a sloppy start for Bristol and Uren, kicking out on the full. Bath lineout outside Bristol's 22 and then Byrne knocks on, Bath advantage... but that's now over, despite Bath losing a lot of ground all the way to halfway, where Bristol turn that over. Bath call feel aggrieved about not getting a scrum there.
Bath's two young flankers have been excellent again
No Mercer or Underhill today, but Bayliss and Reid have done well all season for Bath. At just 22, Reid looks a top player for the future and should thrive next season with Mercer at Montpellier.
HALF-TIME: Bath 15-7 Bristol
Lineout from Bristol isn't straight, and that's half-time! Really interesting first half, with Bath almost against the run of play building a 12-0 lead before Bristol edged back into the contest with that late Hughes try. The league leaders have plenty of work to do.
40 mins - Bath 15-7 Bristol
Bath building phases in Bristol's half, but then Judge knocks on. Last play of the first half coming up.
TRY HUGHES! Bath 15-7 Bristol
And the leaders do get on the board! Hughes powering over from the maul, featuring a remarkable haircut today, as to close the gap ahead of half-time. Sheedy does well with the conversion.
36 mins - Bath 15-0 Bristol
Bath tighthead Stuart is off for an HIA, and off the next scrum Bristol win a penalty. Lineout for Bristol and time's running out for them to find some points in this half.
33 mins - Bath 15-0 Bristol
Better from Bristol, Malins and Byrne doing well, but then Sinckler drops it and Bath counter. Numbers out wide if they can go that way but Stuart trucks up. Ball stripped from Faletau and Bristol can clear.
PENALTY SPENCER! Bath 15-0 Bristol
No mistake from there. Some start this for the hosts.
29 mins - Bath 12-0 Bristol
Earl off his feet, penalty for Bath and Spencer's going to take a shot to extend the lead.
Not bad for a quick HIA replacement
27 mins - Bath 12-0 Bristol
Approaching that half-hour mark and Bristol still scoreless. Sinckler having an in-depth chat with referee Luke Pearce about the scrums.
Bath playing with an advantage inside Bristol's half, a tackle off the ball. Stoppage as Luatua gets some treatment.
23 mins - Bath 12-0 Bristol
Bath's defence delivers again, Clark coming up the turnover before Bath win a penalty for offside. This is highly impressive by Bath so far.
21 mins - Bath 12-0 Bristol
Excellent counter-ruck from Earl earns Bristol a penalty in Bath's half, and they'll stick this in the corner.
Nothing De Glanville could do, tackled by Morahan and Earl was straight in there.
Another penalty, back into the corner.
18 mins - Bath 12-0 Bristol
Bath, remarkably after the start, are on the cusp of a third try after an outstanding kick to the corner off a penalty. Bailey back on for Priestland as Bath set up the maul five metres out from Bristol's line. This time the Bears clear.
TRY PRIESTLAND! Bath 12-0 Bristol
How about that?! Priestland pounces for an intercept try, picking off a second-receiver pass in midfield and strolling over. Converted by Spencer.
TRY WATSON! Bath 5-0 Bristol
Morahan knocks on and Bath can attack, but they lose the ball. And then there's a Bristol knock-on, Bath counter and... has Watson scored?! Bath might have knocked on trying to get the ball back before it was hacked on for Watson to finish.
Clark actually looks to have missed the ball, it might have come off his knee, so it's legal! Blimey. What a funny try. No conversion.
10 mins - Bath 0-0 Bristol
Bristol are going to click eventually in attack, but it's not happened yet, a knock-on in midfield after a quick lineout. Bath's ball deep in their half and after a few phases, Spencer feeds Priestland who kicks long into touch with a boomer.
Taken quick again, Malins countering but the attack ends with Malins knocking on.
8 mins - Bath 0-0 Bristol
That was slick. Malins is over in the corner, but we're coming back for a forward pass from Morahan to Earl. Shame. Bath survive, their scrum in their own 22.
It was amazing flicked offload out the back of the hand by Radradra to release Morahan. Some player.
Very early change for Bath, Priestland on for Bailey who's off for an HIA.
6 mins - Bath 0-0 Bristol
Slippery ball today, couple of knock-ons lead to a Bristol scrum inside Bath's half. After a couple of resets, Bristol are off running, Morahan released down the touchline and the visitors are in Bath's 22.
4 mins - Bath 0-0 Bristol
Bristol lineout a bit of a miss, Luatua not lifted high enough, and Bath will have a scrum near their own line. Huge Bristol nudge, nightmare for Faletau at the base of Bath's scrum, but a Bath penalty! Soft by Bristol. Bath clear to touch.
2 mins - Bath 0-0 Bristol
Earl steps in well, then Bristol go wide. Inside the five-metre line. Penalty, Bath stray offside, Bayliss. Bristol kick to touch.
Sheedy into Bath's 22, taken by Clark, and Spencer clears high, taken by Malins out on the wing today.
Grubber from Sheedy raced onto by S Piutau, inside to his brother Charles, then Sinckler - some start this. One offload might need to be checked but Bristol are 10 metres out...
Some quick match facts
Bath have lost two of their last three Gallagher Premiership matches, both away from home, at London Irish and at Wasps.
Bath have lost only once at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since February, 16-38 to Exeter on 6 March.
Bristol Bears six-game winning run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended with their 12-20 reversal at home to Exeter in Round 17.
The Bears have not lost successive regular season Premiership Rugby matches since last August.
The Bears have lost only once away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Wasps in Round 1.
The Bears have lost only one of their last six fixtures against Bath: 19-26 in “The Clash” at Twickenham in April 2019.
Bristol beat Bath 19-13 on their most recent visit to the Rec in March 2020, their first victory at the venue since 2006.
Like most of the south of the country, it's a bit wet, a bit drizzly, a bit meh. Hope the game's a bit more exciting. Couple of Lions in action too with Anthony Watson and Taulupe Faletau.
No late changes...
...in case you were wondering.
I've got half an eye on Kingston Park, where Newcastle are now 20 points up on London Irish. A defeat for the Exiles would be good news for Bath, who could leapfrog them into sixth place with a win today.
Ramifications from today's game
Bath need a win to keep their top six hopes alive, although it sounds as though top eight will be enough for Champions Cup rugby next season.
Bristol meanwhile are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over second-placed Sale, which is a nice position to be in.
What happened last time these two met in January
Newcastle Falcons 14-15 London Irish
'Horse' ahead of the derby
The Bath wing Will Muir, affectionately known as 'Horse', signed a two-year contract extension this week.
Result from elsewhere
Gloucester have pulled off an outstanding win over Northampton Saints, with new Lions wing Louis Rees-Zammit scoring twice.
Thoughts from the Wales No 10
Those teams in full
Bath: De Glanville; Watson, Clark, Redpath, Muir; Bailey, Spencer; Schoeman, Dunn, Stuart, McNally (capt), Stooke, Bayliss, Reid, Faletau.
Replacements: Du Toit, Bhatti, Judge, Ewels, Ellis, Chudley, Priestland, Gray
Bristol: C Piutau; Morahan, Radradra, S Piutau, Malins; Sheedy, Uren; Thomas, Byrne, Sinckler, Attwood, Vui, Luatua (capt), Earl, Hughes.
Replacements: Kerr, Woolmore, Afoa, Holmes, Heenan, Kessell, Lloyd, Leiua.
Build-up to the West Country derby
Welcome along everyone. Bath will be desperate for revenge after Bristol took them to the cleaners earlier this year, when the Premiership leaders were playing some of their best rugby.
But Bath have improved considerably since then, setting things up nicely for today's meeting at The Rec.
Tom de Glanville will make his return from injury for Bath as Max Clark comes into the centre, with the rest of the backline unchanged from the Challenge Cup semi-final.
A replacement against Montpellier, Elliott Stooke partners captain Josh McNally in the boiler while the front row is unchanged.
On the bench, Tom Ellis is set for his 100th Bath Rugby appearance. Another from the pathway, the 26-year-old made his debut for the club in 2014.
Fly-half Rhys Priestland is also in the matchday 23. It is the first time the Welshman has featured since the middle of March.
As for Bristol, Semi Radradra returns to the starting line-up as Pat Lam makes five changes from the side that suffered defeat to Exeter Chiefs in the last Gallagher Premiership outing.
In the backline, Siale Piutau comes into the midfield, while Callum Sheedy is named at fly half. Max Malins switches to the wing.
In the pack, England international duo Ben Earl and Nathan Hughes come into the back row.
Hooker Jake Kerr – formerly of Leicester Tigers – is included in the 23-man squad having agreed a short-term deal with the club.