If a large part of my brain was frozen when I woke up on Monday morning, you'll forgive me - I had spent half of the previous day parked on the M40 and the other half sitting inside an empty Madejski Stadium watching Worcester suck the life out of London Irish.

A win it was, pretty it was not, and fans of Harry Potter will know what I mean when I describe the experience as similar to being given a Dementor's Death Kiss - one that leaves you feeling empty, alone and as though there is no happiness in the world.

It took some time, therefore, for my faculties to return and considerably longer to work out whether I was dreaming or if Bristol were actually on top of the Guinness Premiership.

Accepting the fact that September's league tables are as useful as a calendar in a 100 metres race, Bristol's achievement in winning their first two matches, at home to Bath and away at Newcastle - whose Kingston Park is only marginally less depressing than the home of Reading Football Club - is remarkable.

And hugely satisfying, too, because of the recruitment policy taken by their head coach, Richard Hill, this summer. The former Bath and England scrum-half scoured the globe looking for talent.

Of course, there are foreign players; there always are. It would be wonderful to think that a club with the history of Bristol could produce a homegrown pack, a half-back pairing from down the road in Somerset and a three-quarter line born within a mile radius of Felton, adorned with a Welsh full-back just by way of exotica.

That doesn't happen any more, it would be naive to expect it, and so Hill found Mariano Sambucetti and Martin Rospide freelancing as cow-hands on farms across the Pampas, David Lima selling ice creams on a Samoan beach and Vaughn Going crushing grapes with his bare feet in Beziers.

But I have to confess I can't say much about the provenance of his three most bizarre additions. Shaun Perry, Lee Robinson and Dan Ward-Smith are all apparently from a little-known outpost called National One.

I understand it is a rundown place somewhere between the tiny village of Pertemps and the rather larger conurbation of Earth, South Yorkshire.

It just so happens that Perry is a Midlands boy. Born and raised in the Black Country, he started his rugby at Dudley Kingswinford, spent rather too long there as it happens, before playing the previous two seasons at Coventry.

He routed Bristol when the two sides met in National One last year and impressed Hill so much that he offered him a full-time contract and all the cider he could drink.

The 27-year-old scored their only try in Sunday's two-point win over Newcastle, a typically robust effort and, in only a couple of top-flight appearances, has looked wellplaced in such exalted company.

In his first match, he scampered 60 yards to deprive Bath a crucial try, though his contribution was not nearly as dramatic as Robinson's.

On that day, the former Plymouth Albion wing scored a brilliant winner with six minutes to go. It was the first Premiership start of his career.

Such potent finishing only confirmed the impressive reputation he had established over the last couple of years in National One. Robinson scored 23 times in 2003-04 and 14 last season. He is the archetypal modern-day wing, big and fast. It's only a matter of time before Ward Smith adds to the 78 tries he's scored in the last four years.

All three are, therefore, proof that good rugby and decent rugby players do exist below the necklevel of the Premiership. Bristol have learned a lot from their two years away from the top table and look cleansed for the experience.

They have spent their time wiselyspotting good players, rebuilding their finances and enthusing a new fan base and if they carry on winning and avoid an instant return to National One then another of the Premiership's 'big teams' could be afforded a similar opportunity in 2006. Let's hope so.