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Bath see off spirited Bristol to win Powergen opener

Whilst Bristol opted to let youth have a go, John Connolly went for continuity, selecting the core of the side that defeated Newcastle a week earlier, but there was also the chance for youth to shine as Nick Abendanon, Tom Cheeseman and Ryan Davis started in an exciting Bath back line.

However, it was Bath's greater experience and bulk up front that was to eventually make the difference in this tie as the home side out-hustled and out-muscled their less experienced opponents in the tight when the going got tough.

It all started so brightly when Bath could have opened the score inside the first minute after Olly Barkley made a beautiful break after some assertive play by the home pack. However, Bristol were let off when the England centre lost control of the ball over the try line as Sean Marsden tracked back to make a try-saving tackle.

Bristol, whose defencive work rate was commendable, soaked up copious amounts of pressure in the opening quarter, whilst also managing to slow down Bath ball with great effect. However, the deadlock was finally breeched when Olly Barkley stroked over a penalty to calm Bath nerves.

Bristol levelled the scores on the half hour when Bath were penalised at a ruck. Danny Gray kicked the points and Bristol were right back in the game with half time approaching. However Bristol were delivered a hammer blow five minutes from the break when their captain Joe El Abd was yellow carded for hands in at the ruck. Bath immediately capitalised when Pieter Dixon powered over for a score in the corner after some good work from French international David Bory.

Bristol came straight back into the game after the interval when after a mistake in the Bath midfield, winger Marco Stanojevic hacked on towards the Bath line. Scrum half Greg Nicholls burrowed his way over the try line from the resulting ruck and remarkably Bristol led.

The lead was to be short lived as Barkley fired as Bath's pack began to take control once more and Olly Barkley fired over a two fifty metre penalties to regain the lead for the home side before adding a further two more to stretch the advantage to ten points.

Having been frustrated by a spirited Bristol defence all afternoon, Bath finally found the try line late in the second half when Ryan Davis' cut out pass was gathered Andrew Higgins before the ball was worked out via Chris Goodman to Tom Cheeseman to score in the corner to add gloss to the scoreline.

Bath Rugby: 15 Nick ABENDANON, 14 David BORY (Salesi Finau), 13 Tom CHEESEMAN (1t), 12 Ryan DAVIS, 11 Andy HIGGINS, 10 Olly BARKLEY (5p) (Chris Malone), 9 Martyn WOOD (Andy Williams), 1 Matt STEVENS (David Barnes), 2 Pieter DIXON (1t) (Lee Mears), 3 Duncan BELL, 4 Steve BORTHWICK © (James Hudson), 5 Danny GREWCOCK, 6 Andy BEATTIE, 7 James SCAYSBROOK, 8 Gareth DELVE (Chris Goodman)

Reps: 16 Lee MEARS, 17 David BARNES, 18 Chris GOODMAN, 19 James HUDSON, 20 Andy WILLIAMS, 21 Chris MALON, 22 Salesi FINAU.

Bristol Rugby: 15 Sean Marsden, 14 Marco Stanojevic, 13 Sam Cox, 12 Mark Denney, 11 David Lemi. 10 Danny Gray (1p, 1c) (Jon Pritchard), 9 Greg Nicholls (1t) (Jacob Rauluni), 1 Mark Irish, 2 Neil Clark, 3 Wayne Thompson (Danny Howick), 4 Olly Kohn (Dave Attwood), 5 Ollie Hodge, 6 Roy Winters, 7 Joe El Abd (capt), 8 Dan Ward-Smith (Redford Pennycook)

Reps:16 Danny Howick, 17 Alun Hiett, 18 Dave Attwood, 19 Redford Pennycook, 20 Jacob Rauluni, 21 Jon Pritchard, 22 Andy Reay.

Ref: Rob Debney (RFU)
Att: 8990
Cards: Joe El Abd (35 mins)

Timeline

21 mins: Barkley penalty 3-0
32 mins: Gray penalty 3-3
40 (+4) mins: Pieter Dixon try 8-3
41 mins: Nicholls try, Gray con 8-10
46 mins: Barkley pen 11-10
52 mins: Barkley pen 14-10
56 mins: Barkley pen 17-10
61 mins: Barkley pen 20-10
79 mins: Cheeseman try 25-10

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