Friday night was a historic one for Bristol Bears, as the West Country side overcame Toulon 32-19 in France to claim their first-ever European trophy.
Pat Lam’s side put in a typically aggressive, intense performance at the Stade Maurice-David , something that has been synonymous with the rising club since the Aucklander took over in the summer of 2017, with the Bears marooned in the Championship.
BREAKING: Bristol Bears podcaster Tony Cox claims the club will threaten the top level of rugby for “years to come”
Tony Cox, host of the Bears Beyond the Gate podcast, was quick to praise the impact Lam has made, as the club prepare for Champions Cup rugby next season just two years after they were promoted from England’s second-tier.
“Pat has done an incredible job for Bristol,” Cox said.
“He’s changed the entire culture of the club, and when you think that just three years ago we were playing in the Championship, it shows the great job that’s been done at Ashton Gate.”
Bristol have traditionally been a smaller fish in a large pond in the West, an area consisting of frequent Premiership finalists in Exeter Chiefs, as well as noisy neighbours Bath.
But under Lam, the Ashton Gate side are sketching their own history, and Cox remains hopeful that this is just the first splash in European water for the fearless Bears.
“Friday night was so special, we’ve waited 37 years to win a major trophy, and for it all to come true, winning in France, it’s special. I’m proud to be a Bristol Bears fan.
“It sends a clear message to the rest of Europe that Bristol are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Champions Cup next year.”
Key to this success has been the ability to integrate young talents such as Harry Randall, with world-class players such as Semi Radradra.
Recently nominated for the European Player of the Year, the Bristol fan couldn’t speak highly enough of the Fijian.
“Radradra has made a huge impact, he’s a quality player and we saw that at the World Cup. With the style that Pat wants to have us playing, he’s perfect. It’s incredible to see someone with the pedigree that he has in a Bears shirt.”
Next season offers an opportunity for clubs like Bristol, with the relegation of heavy-hitters Saracens leaving a space for an additional title challenger.
But for now, Cox was happy to simply relish in the utter triumph of Friday night.
“It was special, I had my three mates from the podcast round, obviously obliging with the COVID rules.
“It was important to watch the game with them, because that’s been one thing missing from this season, not being able to share those special moments with them.
“But to watch it with them, round mine was brilliant and it will live with me forever.”
Written by Jack Dosson