Head coach Dave Walder says the pressure is on Bristol to entertain a bumper home crowd on Sunday as Newcastle Falcons arrive at Ashton Gate with the expressed intention of crashing the Gallagher Premiership party.
The Falcons have won two of their last three in the league and took a bonus point from their last outing against third-placed Gloucester, Walder’s men keen to extend a run against Bristol which has seen just one defeat in their last six – that coming in an RFU Championship dead rubber during Newcastle’s promotion season.
“The onus is on them with it being a home match, they’re the ones who have to entertain and we’re just there to win a game,” said Walder, the former England fly-half who was a Premiership and Heineken Cup winner during his playing career.
“If we play in the right areas, put pressure on their skills and force turnovers in the right zones, I believe we can cause them a lot of problems.
“It’ll be a near full house down there on Sunday, the place will be bouncing and the nature of the way that Bristol play the game means it should be an exciting one.
“Eyebrows were raised at how much money Bristol spent in the Championship last season, but it’s great from a rugby point of view to have such a competitive team coming into the Premiership.”
Keen to bounce back from the late penalty which saw them beaten at home by high-flying Gloucester last weekend, Walder said: “Too often this season we’ve been saying ‘could have won’ or ‘should have won’, and we need to be turning those into results.
“We were really disappointed on the day because we dominated and controlled large parts of the game against a very good Gloucester side, but we didn’t take our opportunities. They punished us for our mistakes and we let them off the hook on a few occasions. We had four penalties in their 22 and came away with 12 points, whereas they had two penalties in ours and came away with two tries.
“The difference for us is being ruthless and turning those opportunities into tries rather than three points, but it’s gone now and we have to look forward.”
Confident that Sunday’s contest will be well handled, he added: “It’s going to be a cauldron-like atmosphere down there but we’ve got the best referee in the Premiership in Wayne Barnes looking after it.
“When you know you’re going to get a consistent outlook on things it makes a big difference, because our discipline has been costing us. That’s also the discipline of players doing their drills and not just meaning the officials, because being a rugby referee has to be one of the hardest jobs going.
“We’ve just got to take games out of the referee’s hands by looking after our own stuff, and being so good at it that we don’t let the ref on any given weekend make a game-affecting decision.”
Buoyed by the return of club captain Will Welch after almost three months out with an ankle injury, the head coach said: “It’s great to have Welchy back, firstly from a leadership point of view but then secondly for what he offers from a pure playing perspective.
“The way that rugby is means you get some back and you lose some within the same breath, but it’s the same for every team and you just have to get on with it.”