The Bristol Bears’ ambitions to climb the Champions League were given a boost with a 15-13 win over Bath Rugby at the Recreation Ground on Friday night in a game filled with errors and inaccuracies but drama in equal measure.
It was only Bristol’s second win away from home in their last 15 trips, but they continued their impressive recent run against Bath after they defeated them for the seventh time in eight outings to leave the blue and whites rooted to the bottom of the table.
READ MORE: Bath Rugby 13-15 Bristol Bears LIVE: Reaction and highlights from the derby clash
Bristol scored two tries to one with Siva Naulago and James Williams both crossing after a shot both times from mach man Semi Radradra, with AJ MacGinty kicking a penalty and conversion.
Miles Reid scored Bath’s try with Piers Francis adding two penalties and a conversion, but crucially the home fly half missed with three shots on target that ultimately proved decisive.
Bristol conceded three early penalties and from the third, Francis had a chance to give his team the lead, but his shot from 50 meters fell just short.
The first half was littered with errors, with Francis missing twice off the tee, first short and then wide, but the opening score of the game was first class.
Semi Radradra took the ball flat on the gain line straight from Harry Randall at the base of a ruck, dissected Dave Attwood and D’Arcy Rae with a spin and offloaded James Williams, who managed to get through to score his first Premiership try. .
But the hosts, whose lineout creaked in the early stages, struck back after some sustained pressure at the Bristol 22 which concluded with Miles Reid working his way over the line with a pair of teammates hooking on adding some extra force.
Bath were extremely lucky to avoid conceding a try just before half time when the refereeing team led by referee Matthew Carley botched a review of Harry Thacker’s score.
Francis took a clearance shot down and Siva Naulago battled for the bouncing ball with Ben Spencer, replays show the Fijian clearly knocking the ball back after two attempts to grab the ball, Thacker picked up and sped under the posts . But the referees judged that the ball went ahead in preparation.
Moments later, Williams was judged very harshly for having blocked a Bath kick chaser to concede a penalty which Francis struck from 35m out to take the lead for the first time.
The hosts lost Cokanasiga at half-time to injury and suffered another blow two minutes after the restart when Bristol regained the lead.
A clean break from MacGinty put the defense on the defensive and as the ball was recycled, Naulago stepped in to fool Matt Gallagher before landing in the corner.
Bath’s troubles continued when full-back Tom de Glanville left the field for an HIA, but they regained their spirits when MacGinty was first handed a yellow card before Francis kicked the resulting penalty.
De Glanville and MacGinty returned and it was Bristol’s fly half who put the Bears in front with a simple penalty with 14 minutes remaining before Francis crucially missed with a 35-metre kick to give Bristol the points.
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Cameron Redpath, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Ben Spencer ©; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Niall Annett, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 4 Dave Attwood, 5 Quinn Roux, 6 Josh Bayliss, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Miles Reid
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Chris Cloete.
Bristol Bear: 15. Charles Piutau, 14. Siva Naulago, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. James Williams, 11. Gabriel Ibitoye, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Harry Randall (c); 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Sam Jeffries, 7. Fitz Harding, 8. Magnus Bradbury
Replacements: 16. Bryan Byrne (41 apps), 17. Jake Woolmore (126 apps), 18. George Kloska (21 apps), 19. Jake Heenan (87 apps), 20. Sam Lewis (8 apps), 21. Andy Uren ( 152 applications), 22. Sam Bedlow (58 applications), 23. Ioan Lloyd (72 applications).
Referee: matthew carley
assistant referees : Ian Tempest and Gareth Holsgrove.
BMT: Rowan Kitt.
dating officer :Chris Sharp.