Three tries were enough for Bristol to claim victory in the West Country derby in a 13–19 win over Bath at the Recreation Ground in Round 12 of the Gallagher Premiership.
Bristol scored within five minutes to ignite the game, with some early momentum allowing them to move the ball from edge-to-edge and set-up what became a highly contested 80 minutes.Early pressure was being built by the visitors with ball in hand, before Bath firmly put themselves in the game and began to build pressure. This trend continued throughout the game, with Bristol having big moments in-possession, but the home side finding opportunities to score through territory and set-piece pressure which ultimately went unrewarded. Bath found themselves on the wrong end of a one-score game after not finding a way to convert pressure into points at key times.
The opening score came for Bristol, following a missed tackle out wide on the Bath wing. Chris Vui made no mistake and grabbed the opportunity to run down the blindside. He was tackled just short of the line by the Bath defence however his reach enabled the score. Referee Ian Tempest checked the TMO but the try was awarded as the ball had clearly grounded. Callum Sheedy’s kick was marginally wide meaning the visitors secured five points on the five-minute mark. [0-5]
At nine minutes in to the first half Priestland landed a three pointer for the blue, black and white to secure Bath’s first scores of the game. The penalty was awarded for Bristol being off their feet following a scrappy lineout and Bath’s opportunity to play being halted by the Bristol infringement [3-5]
On the 22-minute mark, Bristol secured their second score, after this time finishing momentum on the right side of the field, and Bath finding themselves short of defenders. Fly-half Sheedy dropped received the ball before evading a Bath defender and finding a perfectly-placed kick into the arms of Alapati Leiua who ran over unopposed. Sheedy’s kick was good to add the extras and give Bristol a stronger lead. [3-12]
For a solid ten minutes following the Leiua try, Bath were camped on the Bristol line, exerting huge pressure on Bristol, without finding their way over the whitewash. Bristol infringed multiple times whilst defending their own line however and went down to 14 men when Joe Joyce was shown a yellow card. Bath continued to build pressure through the scrum, but the visitors held strong and turned possession over following a pick-from the base of the scrum from Toby Faletau on the 30-minute mark, which saw Bath exit the opposition 22 with no further points. [3-12]
With five minutes left to go of the half a tap and go from a penalty to Bath allowed Semesa Rokoduguni the space to kick ahead. Bath defended with repeated line-speed as Bristol tried to run their way out of trouble, and a lovely turnover won by Francios Louw gave Priestland the opportunity to add another three to his tally. The fly half made no mistake and reduced the deficit to within six as the teams walked in for half time talks. [6-12]
The first half was a game of small margins with neither team really able to get a foothold to deliver the kind of dominance needed to notch up a significant lead. Both sides were making a number of unforced-errors in their own halves of the field, and with one-score separating the teams, all was to play for in the second half.
HALF TIME BATH RUGBY 6 – 12 BRISTOL BEARS
Priestland got the second half underway in what became a low scoring affair with both teams looking to find territory more often than not for the majority of the half. Bristol were delivering an aggressive defence and applied pressure on the Bath breakdown to deny any kind of real ball speed, however Bath were looking more threatening and their set-piece platform was looking typically strong.
Bristol continued to kick the ball out of their own 22 as the second-half progressed, and Bath continued to exert pressure on the visitors. A lineout exit from Bristol gave the home side a chance to counter-attack with Josh Matavesi finding himself in some space on the second phase, before an offload to floor gave Bristol possession on the half -way line. This allowed Bristol the field position and possession they had been craving, and at the 63-minute mark Harry Randall crashed over to stretch Bristol’s lead. The conversion was good by Sheedy. [6-19]
A quick response was needed from the home-side and Bath found their first try of the game at 65 minutes. Will Chudley, fresh off the bench linked with Rhys Priestland who had found some space in midfield to break through the Bristol defence, he linked back inside with Chudley who ran in under the posts. Priestland added the conversion to take it back to a one score game. [13-19]
The closing moments of the game were mostly played in the Bristol half, with continued set-piece pressure giving Bath the platform to gain the much-needed points to win the game. The scrum dominance from Bath was going unrewarded, and although the home side found space with line-breaks from Max Wright, and momentum on edges, the Bristol defence held-firm and the visitors managed to exit long down-field from a 22 metre drop out after a chip through from Burns was touched down in-goal by Bristol with two minutes remaining. With Bath still needing the elusive score to win, they held possession, for many phases before an error allowed Bristol to kick the ball off to finish the game and take the victory.
A three-game winning streak for the home side in the Premiership was ended, with a visit to table-topping Exeter Chiefs on the horizon in six days-time with a chance to climb back into the top four.
BATH RUGBY 13 – 19 BRISTOL BEARS
8.Taulupe Faletau, 7. Francois Louw ©, 6.Mike Williams, 5. Elliot Stooke, 4. Josh McNally, 3. Will Stuart, 2. Jack Walker, 1. Lewis Boyce; 9.Rhys Webb, 10. Rhys Priestland, 11. Ruaridh McConnochie, 12.Josh Matavesi, 13. Jackson Willison, 14. Semesa Rokoduguni, 15. Tom Homer
16. Tom Doughty, 17. Beno Obano, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Tom Ellis 20. Josh Bayliss, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Max Wright
1 March 2020
Referee: Ian Tempest
Half Time score: 6-12
- Tries: Chudley (65)
- Conversions: Priestland (65)
- Penalties: Priestland (8, 38)
- Tries: Vui (4), Leiua (16), Randall (62)
- Conversions: Sheedy (18, 63)