Bristol 25-20 Bath: Hosts fight back to narrowly win West Country derby to take their first win of the Premiership Rugby season after the visitors sent two players to the sin-bin
- Efforts by Will Muir and Semesa Rokoduguni helped Bath to a 15-8 . lead
- Steve Luatua withdrew one before Muir extended the advantage
- Bristol got a penalty after Tom Ellis and Tom Dunn were sent to the sin-bin
- Jake Kerr bundled over the line to seal a dramatic comeback win for the Bears
Kyle Sinckler couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming from the Lions tour as he helped Bristol get out of a deep hole and into the bottom of the Premiership table.
When England’s prime minister tighthead prop went off with a dozen minutes of this thunderous West Country derby left, he was almost on his feet, with the huge Ashton Gate crowd cheering him on.
Sinckler had a rocky start, but grew back into action in his first game – earlier than expected – after the summer tour in South Africa.
Bristol Bears fought from behind to take their first victory of the Rugby Premiership season
His last appearance had been painful in Cape Town, but this was a much more satisfying result for the 28-year-old. He was typically assertive, abrasive and vocal as the Bristol forwards gradually turned the tide of this exciting game.
Midway through the second, Pat Lam’s men trailed 20-11, but the pack strength allowed them to recover and inflict Bath’s third straight defeat of the campaign.
England head coach Eddie Jones was on hand to witness Sinckler’s powerful comeback and a vintage demonstration of Sam Underhill’s sledgehammer taking on and improving the links game for Bath. He saw two sides trying to gain confidence and persist in adventure and expansion despite a torrent of mistakes.
Bath got off to a good start with Semesa Rokoduguni among the try-scorers
Will Muir scored two tries for Bath in a match that appeared to be going their way
The Bears advanced on an eight-minute penalty from Callum Sheedy, but Bath began to push themselves, registering the first try of the night in the 17th minute as Jonathan Joseph released Will Muir and shoved the wing between two swinging defenders and accelerated away to scoring. Orlando Bailey’s conversion set Hooper’s side up 7-3.
It remained a messy, incoherent affair. The better moments came from Bath. Underhill crushed Will Capon to force a knock-on. Later in the half, he targeted the same opponent with the same brutal treatment. In between those monstrous hits, there was a dazzling dummy and counter attack from Bailey.
Bristol struck back at their local rivals just after half an hour. Ioan Lloyd’s run into the field caused a faltering attack, Ed Holmes and Sinckler kept up the momentum and the ball reached Steven Luatua on the left. The home captain dipped out, galloped away and dove across to finish in style.
But in the extra time before halftime, Bath proved they can be stylish too, putting on a brilliant team effort. Bailey’s delayed pass sent Tom De Glanville into space, he passed out to Underhill and the openside caught Semesa Rokoduguni, who landed.
Bath’s good work was ruined as both Tom Dunn and earlier Tom Ellis were sent to the bin
Kyle Sinckler put on an impressive display to help the Bears to their first win
So the visitors were seven points ahead as the second half began and although a new Sheedy penalty closed the gap short, Bath remained the more threatening team. In the 52nd minute they struck again for their third try of the evening.
Max Ojomoh’s stylish chip forward and pickup set the wheels in motion, and the attack was held on the right by Rokoduguni and the ruthless Underhill. When the ball returned to Bailey, he kicked low to the left, Muir did well to collect, he passed in to Ojomoh and was ready to take the rebound from the center to score. It was a masterpiece.
Bristol creaked and toiled, but their spirits were not broken. They came back with a lineout drive that had to disrupt Tom Ellis by folding the maul, giving the Bears a penalty try and the Bath flanker a yellow card.
Tom Dunn followed him into the sin box and Bristol took full advantage to strike again. Jake Kerr had already been denied an attempt by what appeared to be a contentious call by the TMO, but he was soon over again and this time there was no doubt as he knocked the ball out of an emphatic lineout drive from the home pack. . Sheedy repented and his side escaped to victory.
Jake Kerr scored the winning try in the West Country derby on Friday night
Bath players look dejected after victory slips through their fingers against Bristol