Gloucester sent Bristol a significant step closer to relegation courtesy of a bonus-point victory here on Friday.
A 15th league defeat of the campaign means last season’s Championship winners remain seven points adrift of second-bottom Worcester with only four games of the regular season left. Furthermore, three of those remaining fixtures are against the sides currently occupying the top three places.
Of course, once again, the honest endeavour of the Premiership’s bottom club was warmly received by the long-suffering home supporters. However, a lack of imagination in the final third meant their night finished like so many before.
Although it was Gloucester who broke the deadlock, courtesy of a penalty from Billy Burns inside three minutes, it was Bristol who dominated the opening 40 minutes, in terms of possession.
They recycled the ball well, did their best to use the width of a lush-looking Ashton Gate surface and stood toe to toe with a Gloucester side for whom recent defeats against Harlequins and Wasps had left them in ninth place, a point behind Newcastle.
Unfortunately, for all that possession and promise, Billy Searle’s 13th-minute penalty was their single first-half reward until the outside-half added a second in the 40th minute.
Full-back Jason Woodward scuffed two other, kickable penalties, while a lack of nous when it mattered most, meant the half was one of utter frustration.
Their disappointment was compounded by the fact that Gloucester scored on each of the three occasions they ventured across half-way. Burns kicked the opening penalty and then converted a try from blood replacement Charlie Sharples in the 15th minute. His second penalty, two minutes from the interval, meant Gloucester led 13-6 at half time.
Injuries to David Lemi and Tusi Pisi certainly hampered Bristol’s cause, although Tom Marshall’s yellow card in the final throes of the first half and injuries to David Halaifonua and Andy Symonds meant Gloucester were hamstrung too.
In fact, when Searle added his third penalty, 13 minutes into the second half, Bristol were momentarily buoyed.
Gloucester’s response was emphatic, with Burns converting his own try a minute later, despite claims from the hosts that Richard Hibbard had knocked on earlier in the move.
Replacement Lewis Ludlow added a third try for the visitors 10 minutes from time, and after Bristol’s replacement hooker Max Crumpton had crossed late on for Bristol, the visitors snatched a dramatic late bonus point when Jonny May was sent clear on half-way for a converted try that sealed a good night’s work.