Dynamic Harry Randall presents his England Six Nations case with star showing for Bristol

·5-min read
Bristol Bears' Harry Randall (right) celebrates after scoring a try during the Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A match at Ashton Gate, Bristol. - PA
Bristol Bears' Harry Randall (right) celebrates after scoring a try during the Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A match at Ashton Gate, Bristol. - PA

To Pat Lam’s relief the Bristol bus has had it's tyres reinflated and is slowly moving through the gears in order to be a vehicle capable of delivering the success both he and the Ashton Gate fans so badly desire.

More importantly, it is being driven by a bold and dynamic young man determined to gain control of the England No 9 jersey for the Six Nations.

Many feel Harry Randall is destined to do so… Eddie Jones chose Devon rather than Somerset for his weekend club overview to run his eye over his selection contenders. But no doubt, after watching Exeter’s demolition of Glasgow, the head coach found a television to watch events at Ashton Gate.

He would have witnessed Randall placing his Test credentials firmly on the table, displaying the dazzling, uplifting attributes which persuaded Jones to toss him Test caps against the United States and Canada last summer.

The energy, enthusiasm and endeavour the 24-year-old demonstrated in the bonus-point win over Stade Francais which helped his side qualify for the last 16 of the Champions Cup, showed a player clearly keen and able to taste far greater Test foes.

Stade simply had no answer to Randall’s fast feet and hands plus instinctive brain. The try he scored in the second half, dancing his way through the Stade defence with such skill and style, was of true international quality. It was one of the stand out moments of Bristol’s 28-17 triumph in the Pool B contest.

Another similar scintillating performance in Bears’ final European contest at Scarlets on Saturday could just ensure he is at least in the matchday 23 when England visit Murrayfield in 19 days’ time.

England supporters may have to wait a little longer, bar injuries, to witness what many regard as the dream World Cup halfback ticket of Marcus Smith and Randall, with Ben Youngs still firmly stuck to the scrum-half Test jersey, but that day is growing ever nearer.

And while Lam would have mixed feelings if Randall spends most of February and March away from Ashton Gate on international duty, the Bears director of rugby knows that is just part of having star players in his squad. “It would be a big surprise if Harry does not play some part in the Six Nations. We shall just have to wait and see. He is in really good form and is able to bring tempo to any game.”

Randall side-stepped any questions on potential England selection, and was much more focused on what Bristol need to continue doing to ensure they get their hands on some silverware this season.

Bears still have plenty of work to do domestically to start climbing the table from their lowly position but they are in better shape in Europe, and a Premiership win over Sale followed by this defeat of Stade shows glimmers of light.

Lam said: “We know it is still not perfect but we are getting better and better. We will prepare hard for Scarlets in order to get another winthere. It will be pretty much the Wales team we will be playing against. We want to finish as high up as we can because it influences what happens as the tournament goes on.”

Report: Bristol Bears 28 Stade Francais 17

Harry Randall provided the magic and inspiration as Bristol’s hopes of conquering Europe were raised withan convincing victory over Stade.

The scrum-half showed just why he is seen as England’s future No 9 and why he was brought into the fold by Eddie Jones during the summer, finally gaining his first two Test caps.

His quick hands, and equally quick feet and brain, helped Bears capture a bonus-point win in this Pool B contest and a victory at Scarlets next Saturday should ensure their place in the next phase of the Champions Cup. And Director of Rugby Lam praised Randall, 24, for his outstanding display enthusing: “Harry is inreally good form and is able to bring tempo to the game. We spoke at half-time about speeding up the game and getting that important flow to our performance, and we did that well in the second half.”

Randall, himself, claimed: "We dealt with the Stade well. It was a bit loose at times but overall a superb team performance." They began to build up a silky passing rhythm which enabled them to slice their way through their opponents and towards the line. In all the hurry and scurry it seemed ironic that scrum-half Harry Randall was penalised by Irish referee Andrew Brace for not using the ball from the back of a ruck quickly enough.

Randall sparked into life with a stunning break from inside his own half towards the Stade line, and his pass inside was perfect for the supporting Henry Purdy to burst clear under the posts for the opening try converted by Callum Sheedy.

A slick lineout move involving Will Capon and Dan Thomas allowed centre Pier O’Conor to race down the right and over for the second try. Sheedy converted again yet, just as the home side were contemplating their half time drink and break, Sanchez provided the perfect chip over the onrushing Bears defence and the ball bounce kindly for centre Leo Barre to grasp it for the try. Sanchez added the extras and the French side were back in the contest.

Bristol Bears' Piers O'Connor scores a try. - REUTERS
Bristol Bears' Piers O'Connor scores a try. - REUTERS

Sanchez closed the gap to four points with a penalty seven minutes into the second half only for the dynamic Randall to show his class, taking a quick tap and darting his way across for a wonderful score.

The Bears were on the prowl, and Luke Morahan broke clear to send O’Conor across for his second try. But the hosts seemed to take the foot off the gas allowing Stade back in with a chance as replacement forward Antoine Burban surging over for a try from the back of a ruck.

Randall left the field to a loud ovation from the crowd for his outstanding night’s work… and Bristol went on to claim the crucial victory.

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