Bristol Bears secured an opening day victory with a 17-10 triumph over Bath Rugby in front of a capacity crowd at Ashton Gate.
The first points of the match came in the eighth minute, as the Blue, Black and White were penalised for collapsing the Bristol maul. The hosts signalled for the sticks and Ian Madigan slotted the kick to give his side an early lead. [3-0]
Bath came within a whisker of a try seven minutes later after a flowing move from Tom Homer started on the halfway line. The full-back offloaded to Sam Underhill, with Taulupe Faletau gaining further ground into the opposition 22. Following several phases, the ball was offloaded to Priestland, who put Homer across the line. However, after intervention from the TMO, he was adjudged to have lost the ball in grounding.
The Bears were next on the attack, as winger Luke Morahan made a clean break through the Bath defence with a try looking a certainty. However, the winger was halted in his tracks by the back-tracking Joe Cokanasiga, who stepped in to make a try-saving tackle.
Bristol continued to pile the pressure on the Bath defence, and were rewarded for their efforts with another three points from the boot of Madigan, which gave the home side a six-point advantage going into the half-time interval. [6-0]
Half-time - Bristol Bears 6-0 Bath Rugby
Two minutes into the second-half, Bristol added another three points through the prolific Madigan, who extended their lead. [9-0]
Bath hit back 10 minutes later following strong work from Zach Mercer, who jinked his way into the Bristol 22. The ball was fired out quickly to Priestland, who found Homer at pace, and the full-back crossed the whitewash for Bath’s first score of the evening. Priestland converted to reduce the deficit to just two points. [9-7]
Bath started to take control of proceedings, as they tested the resolve of the dogged Bristol defence. A powerful drive at the scrum led to a try scoring opportunity, which was stopped abruptly by a deliberate knock-on by Tusi Pisi. Referee JP Doyle had no option but to send the centre to the sin-bin.
The visitors took the lead for the first time in the match on the 63rd minute. Bristol were penalised on their 10 metre line and Priestland opted for the kick at goal. The kick was successful and Bath moved in front on the scoreboard for the first time in the game. [9-10]
Bristol retook the lead five minutes later, as Bath were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown. Madigan stepped up once again to give his side a two-point lead going into the final 10 minutes.
The killer blow was landed in the 72nd minute, with Morahan causing havoc in the Bath defence once again. The winger found the juggling Alapati Leiua, who managed to grasp the ball at the second time of asking to score in the corner. [17-10]
Bath continued to look for that all important score, but were unable to bypass a well-drilled Bristol defence. Attention now turns to next Saturday’s derby, with Bath Rugby hosting Gloucester Rugby back at the Rec.
Full-time - Bristol Bears 17-10 Bath Rugby
31 August 2018
Referee: JP Doyle
Half Time score: 6-0
- Tries: Leiua (71)
- Penalties: Madigan (8, 28, 42, 67)
- Tries: Homer (51)
- Conversions: Priestland (53)
- Penalties: Priestland (62)