Dave Ward, head coach of Bristol Premier 15s Play-Offs, calls it ‘incredible.

Courtney Keight is tackled with the ball playing for Bristol against Exeter
Courtney Keight scored for Bristol in their narrow loss to Exeter on the final day.

Dave Ward, Bristol's head coach said it was an “incredible feat” to reach the Premier15s play-offs.

The Bears came third in this table and will now face Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, Sunday 22 May, in the semi final.

In the final at Sixways on June 3, either Harlequins, or Saracens will be playing.

Since 2017-18 Bristol's creation of the Premier 15s, they have never finished above sixth.

The BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website, and BBC Sport app will broadcast the semi-finals live.

“It's amazing and it's all credit the girls. Ward said that Ward believes it is about getting everyone on the same page, and the hard work of the girls throughout the season.

“I did appreciate it. My wife [Bristol and England lock Abbie Ward]Women's rugby is played by many women, but it's amazing to witness firsthand the hard work that the girls put in, both on and off the field.

Ward, a former Harlequins and Bath hooker, was named head coach in April 2021. Under his leadership, Bristol won 11 matches this season in the Premier 15. This is an improvement on the four wins they won last year, which left them eighth.

Their 525 points total is higher than any campaign before it.

The Bristol squad is nearly unchanged from last season, with Ward describing instilling belief in the players as well as growing strength and depth.

“I saw the potential of this squad. He said that there were flashes of potential when he watched Bristol play.

“They couldn’t get it together as well as they would like. It was huge for me to be able to help them see this belief system. We were able to finish in the top four.

You can tell people they are brilliant and excellent, and maybe they will believe you. For me, however, I am showing them.

“I'm returning, I'm looking at training. Every week I review training, what they are doing and how they achieve it. This shows that we have progressed from where we were two months ago to where it is now or six months ago.

Ward also expressed his gratitude to the doctors and coaches at Bristol for keeping the players healthy and giving them tailored training programs.

Ward stated, “They've done an amazing job making sure our players are taken care of and I still have a squad with 40 to choose from.”

“From a coaching standpoint, if there are more people training, it is possible to make quick progresses. This season has shown that. I am just so proud of these girls and all the hard work they have put in.

Bristol narrowly lost to Exeter 26-29 on the final day of the regular seasonDays ago, in a “dress rehearsal” against another team in the play-offs, they were defeated.

Ward stated, “We want the crack on now and to keep pushing,”

“There are many teams in the league that think the top four is available for everyone; Exeter and I have broken the mold this year. It's great for league, but also drives that competition.

Bristol won six of their opening matches to climb to the top of this season's table. This gave them considerable momentum throughout the campaign.

Ward stated, “I believe a lot people didn't see that coming from us.”

“Bristol wasn't even noticed by anyone.” [for a top-four finish]That was a very nice feeling for us. Pre-season training was intense so that we could be ready.

“The fact is, we've lost that unexpected element. It won't be there at the end. We will be seen by everyone as a huge game, which is great but it also means that the challenge for us is going to increase.”

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