A clinical second-half showing from Bristol Bears secured a 43-16 victory over Bath Rugby in the Gallagher Premiership opener at Ashton Gate.
Bristol Bears made their intentions known from the start with a try inside the first few minutes of the game. A powerful run from Nathan Hughes set up the platform for quick ball inside the 22. Play was recycled wide to Charles Piutau, who used his footwork to offload to Luke Morahan, with the winger going over in the corner. [5-0]
Bath got on the board immediately after the restart, with Rhys Priestland slotting a penalty following a Bristol infringement. [5-3]
Bristol added a second on 12 minutes, with Piutau the provider once again as the full-back made a clean line break before offloading to Hughes to finish under the posts. Callum Sheedy added the extra points. [12-3]
The visitors continued to rally and edged closer on the scoreboard with a second penalty of the evening from Priestland to reduce the deficit to six points. [12-6]
Bath got their first try of the evening with less than 15 minutes to play in the half courtesy of some quick thinking from Aled Brew. After stealing the line-out, Brew hacked forward into the Bristol 22. The chase from Max Clark put the retreating Bristol defence under pressure, as the centre marshalled Mat Protheroe to touch deep inside the 22. The driving maul, which had been a big asset over the last four weeks paid dividends once again, as Zach Mercer peeled away from the back to power over from close range. Priestland added the extras to put Bath in the lead. [12-13]
With the clock ticking into the red, Bristol has the final say of the half, using the numbers out wide to put Protheroe through in the corner. Sheedy missed the resulting conversion, with Bristol four points ahead at the interval.
Half-time – Bristol Bears 17-13 Bath Rugby
Both sides began the second-half as they did the first, with raw power and intensity, but it was Bristol who mounted scoring opportunities in the Bath 22. However, some resilient defence from the likes of Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Mike Williams kept the Bristol attack at bay in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
It was the home side, who added further ground on the scoreboard with a counter attacking move finished by Piers O’Conor. A length of the field breakaway saw Hughes combine with O’Conor out wide, to provide a simple finish for the centre. [24-13]
Bath hit back immediately with another Priestland penalty, to put his side within eight points. [24-16]
With 14 minutes to go, replacement Lewis Boyce was shown a yellow card for a high tackle, whilst defending his own line. With the man advantage, Bristol went for touch and John Afoa was on hand to go over from the rolling maul in the corner. [31-16]
Bristol sealed the victory three minutes from time, as the home side moved the ball from left to right, with Ioan Lloyd on hand to cross the whitewash. [36-16]
An overlap in the Bath 22 created one final score for Pat Lam’s side, with Luke Morahan the beneficiary, as the Australian crossed in the corner.
Bath return to action next Friday, with Exeter Chiefs the visitors to the Rec.
Full-time – Bristol Bears 43-16 Bath Rugby
18 October 2019
Referee: Tom Foley
Half Time score: 17-13
- Tries: Morahan (1, 79), Hughes (11), Protheroe (41), O'Conor (51), Afoa (65), Lloyd (77)
- Conversions: Sheedy (12, 51, 66), Lloyd (81)
- Tries: Mercer (26)
- Conversions: Priestland (27)
- Penalties: Priestland (5, 18, 54)