Bath Rugby claimed a bonus-point 26-19 victory over West Country rivals Bristol Bears in front of a crowd of 60,152 at Twickenham Stadium.
It could not have been a better start for Bath Rugby, as they took the lead through a Jonathan Joseph score after just two minutes. Bristol looked to play from deep and Bath capitalised on a loose pass, which secured an attacking five metre scrum. From the set piece, Kahn Fotuali’i spotted numbers out wide with Rhys Priestland picking out Joseph on his outside. The centre skipped around the Bristol defence and buried his way over the line. Priestland converted from out wide to give Bath the early lead. [7-0]
Bristol responded with some attacking flair of their own, which resulted in their first points of the afternoon. After Bath were penalised for offside, Callum Sheedy kicked over a straight forward penalty from in front of the posts. [7-3]
It didn’t take long for Bath to get back on the scoreboard, with Ruaridh McConnochie rising highest to win back possession from straight from the restart. The backs worked their magic once again and Joseph turned from try scorer to provider, with a clever kick in behind the Bears defence. Jamie Roberts watched the ball patiently before collecting to score Bath’s second of the afternoon. Priestland’s kick drifted wide of the uprights. [12-3]
Bath made it three tries with just 22 minutes on the clock. A scrum in the midfield saw Zach Mercer sear through the Bears' defensive line. Fellow back rower Sam Underhill was on his shoulder and a clever offload sent him deep inside the 22. The Bristol defence regathered, but Bath maintained composure deep in the 22. It was Joe Cokanasiga with the finishing touch, as the winger powered his way over from close range. Priestland added the extras to give his side a 16-point advantage. [19-3]
Bristol made Bath pay in the closing 10 minutes of the half conceding a number of penalties. Bristol were able to reduce arrears through the boot of Sheedy, who scored three successful penalties to take the sides into the interval closely poised at 19-12.
Half time – Bath Rugby 19-12 Bristol Bears
It was a tentative opening to the second half at Twickenham, with neither side able to make any headway into the opposition territory.
The deadlock was finally broken with 56 minutes played. Bristol looked to play the ball from inside their half, but it cost them dearly. Priestland got his boot on to a loose pass just outside the Bristol 22 and gave chase towards the try line. The fly-half finished off a try out of nothing to secure a bonus-point for the Blue, Black and White. The fly-half converted his own try to extend his side's lead to 14. [26-12]
With a large share of possession, Bristol continued to test the resolve of the Bath defence. With just over 10 minutes to play, Bristol reduced the gap with their second of the afternoon. Quick hands saw the Bears mount an attack on the left wing, and the numbers out wide proved pivotal. Alapati Leiua sent Dan Thomas clear, with the flanker charging down the touchline to run in for a vital score. The successful conversion put the visitors to within a score. [26-19]
However, Bristol were unable to bridge the gap on their local rivals and Bath came away with the victory that takes them up to sixth in the Gallagher Premiership.
Full-time - Bath Rugby 26-19 Bristol Bears
6 April 2019
Referee: JP Doyle
Half Time score: 19-12
- Tries: Joseph (1), Roberts (9), Cokanasiga (21), Priestland (55)
- Conversions: Priestland (2, 22, 56)
- Tries: Thomas (69)
- Conversions: Madigan (70)
- Penalties: Sheedy (7, 30, 34, 40)