RFU Championship: Bristol 36 Moseley 25

There are two ways to interpret this, Moseley's ninth defeat of their tortured season and both hinge on one's view of the future.

Subscribers to the diminishing school of thought that Ian Smith's men can escape the bottom four will view their afternoon at the Memorial Stadium as a missed opportunity.

The perception that expensively-assembled Bristol are an underachieving top-of-the-table outfit that will soon come good and against whom victories cannot be budgeted for, is no longer sustainable.

Bristol are in the lower reaches of the Championship for a reason. Quite simply they are not as good as they should be and because they know it, they are riddled with anxiety.

As Birmingham & Solihull showed last month it is perfectly possible to storm the Bristolians' flimsy barricades and had Moseley concentrated on keeping the referee's whistle out of his mouth they might have done likewise.

The other viewpoint, however, is that Mose are destined for the relegation play-offs and whatever happens between now and March 12 is meaningful only in how it relates to the first of those final six, decisive matches.

From that standpoint there were aspects of this performance that were hugely promising.

The main ones were the displays of their two debutants Bevon Armitage and Dan Robson.

Armitage is a proven Championship performer and looked every inch the quality midfielder they have lacked since Jack Adams' dual registration ended 18 months ago.

In attack the former Doncaster man hauled his side kicking and screaming across the gain-line by running hard and straight and giving it a target to play from.

Moseley are probably 20 per cent stronger for his presence, although if we are being ultra-fussy Armitage is less likely to release his wingers than Adams was - and that really is saying something.

And in defence the six-lane highway, down which opponents only had to travel to reach the Moseley try-line, has narrowed to a country-track. It is difficult to imagine many second-tier outside centres strolling past the dynamic 28-year-old.

If only the same could be said during phase play when Moseley's midfield retains the sort of brittleness that led to Sean Marsden's try and saw Junior Fatialofa and Jack Tovey slice straight through for their own scores.

As for Robson, the young Gloucester trainee brought an energy to Moseley's offensive work which kept his forwards on their toes and stopped them looking as arthritic as they do when they are organising their one-out pods.

Robson, son of former Red and Black scrum half Simon, likes his rugby fast and loose and providing his presence and availability can be relied upon his inexperience is well worth indulging.

The flip side of his youthful exuberance is an obsession with tap-penalties that must be tempered if it is not become a liability, as much as his kicking strategy needs a development.

Nevertheless there was a mobility and balance to the visitors' threequarter line that has not been seen this season bodes well for bigger battles ahead.

As does the mental fortitude that brought them back from 29-11 down to within four points of Paul Hull's nervy hosts. It was unfortunate five 76th minute missed tackles allowed Tovey to end the comeback just when it was getting really interesting.

Even then Moseley might have come away with a couple of bonus points, when in the dying seconds they had Bristol backed up on their own line and with a two-man overlap just waiting for the ball.

Brad Davies' failure to get it to either of them, the fly half threw an ambitious mispass a couple of yards forward, meant Moseley ended the match as they had started it - being kind to the opposition.

BRISTOL: Marsden; Tovey, Adams, Fatialofa, Elliott; Jarvis, Bolt; Vunipola (Crompton 80), Hayes, Thompson (Irish 61), Sambucetti (Barry 70), Winters, Grieve, Merriman, Montagu (Miller 76). Replacements: Blaney, Shaw, Barnes

MOSELEY: Carter (Taylor 78); Bressington (Borgen 74), Armitage, Reay, Thomas; Davies, Robson; Williams (Knight 40), Caves, Sigley (Voisey 40), Lyons, Stott, Maltman, Pennycook, Ellery (Mason 55). Replacements: Lewis, Spivey