Tom Varndell showed he has not lost one iota of his killer instinct on his return to Aviva Premiership Rugby last weekend, and despite Bristol Rugby’s loss to Harlequins he is adamant they showed they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Andy Robinson’s side shot out of the traps at the London Double Header to surge into a 14-3 lead at Twickenham, as Varndell opened the scoring by intercepting Danny Care’s loose pass before Tusi Pisi pressed home Bristol’s advantage.
But two tries in as many minutes from Marland Yarde and Joe Marchant pegged the league’s new-boys back, and Nick Evans’ nerveless kicking eventually proved the difference.
And although Varndell was positive about his side’s first showing in Aviva Premiership Rugby for eight years, he knows where they must improve against Northampton Saints this weekend.
“We went 14-3 up in the first-half and were looking pretty good, so there was a lot to be happy about, but then not getting the win when we had put ourselves in the position to do so was a shame,” said the four-time England international.
“I think we were the better side for lengthy periods in that game, and a couple of lapses of concentration cost us.
“You put a lot of work in during the summer; the preseason games had gone well and we’d been building steadily, and we knew we could get the win if we played well for 80 minutes – and the game on Saturday showed us that is the case.
“We’re not just going to be in a relegation scrap, we’re looking up the table, but we know that discipline will be a big thing for us.
“We gave away 19 penalties to their seven, and you can’t win games when you’re giving territory back or Nick Evans shots at goal.
“If we tighten it up we can really push on.”
After hugely successful stints with both Leicester Tigers and Wasps, Varndell picked up just where he left off in crossing the whitewash for his 86th Aviva Premiership Rugby try – showing he is just as at home in the top flight as ever.
That moved him just four short of equalling Mark Cueto’s league record, and while the 30-year-old admits he would love to get himself into the history books, priority number one is helping Bristol finish as high up the standings as possible this year.
He said: “Obviously scoring tries is my job and what I to love do, and if I can break the record that would be fantastic, but for me it’s all about making sure Bristol are still in the Aviva Premiership next year.
“If that is the case then hopefully I’ll have done my job and scored the tries anyway, so Bristol has to come first as one won’t come without the other.
“There’s lots of time yet to get the tries, and I’ve got to put myself in the right positions to help the team and get over the tryline.
“It all works together; if Bristol survive and I get the Aviva Premiership record then that would be fantastic.”