Bristol end 37-year wait for silverware
CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: Bristol won their first piece of silverware since 1983 on Friday when they defeated Toulon in a European Final.
The English side’s 32-19 victory over the French giants was their maiden continental crown.
It was a third defeat in the final of Europe’s second-tier tournament for Toulon after losses in the 2010 and 2012 showpieces.
Bristol stormed into a 10-0 lead on the back of a try after just 20 seconds on the plastic pitch at Aix.
Toulon star and Fiji international centre Semi Radradra set scrumhalf Harry Randall free on the inside to score.
Callum Sheedy knocked over the conversion with the Bristol flyhalf quickly adding a penalty for 10-0 with barely four minutes on the clock.
Three-time Champions Cup winners Toulon hit back when Kiwi winger Bryce Heem scored from a pass by Isaia Toeava.
Louis Carbonel hit the extras as the French side cut the gap to just three points.
The English side thought they had a second try of the match, but hooker Harry Thacker saw his effort ruled out after he was adjudged to have fumbled the ball before grounding.
Toulon took full advantage with three penalties from Carbonel – the last from 50 metres – sending them in at the break with a 16-10 lead.
French indiscipline helped Bristol trim the gap early in the second period when a high tackle by Romain Taofifenua on flanker Dan Thomas gave Sheedy the penalty chance.
Carbonel quickly restored his team’s lead to 19-13 with a penalty in front of the posts.
In a back-and-forth final, Sheedy then kicked a close-range penalty before a monster long-distance effort pulled the scores level at 19-19.
On the hour mark, Bristol grabbed their second and decisive try of the night.
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Fullback Max Malins was freed by winger Alapati Leiua and the former England Under-20 international sprinted from 40 metres to score.
Sheedy converted and the English side were 26-19 ahead.
Carbonel then missed his first kick of the night with eight minutes left before Sheedy showed him the way by extending Bristol’s lead to 29-19.
Sheedy added another penalty in the dying moments to put the outcome beyond doubt.
There could be more silverware next weekend for Bristol who will play in the English Premiership final against Exeter if Wasps are ruled out due to a clutch of coronavirus cases.
For Bristol Bears
Tries: Randall, Malins
Cons: Sheedy 2
Pens: Sheedy 6
Pens: Carbonel 4
Toulon: 15 Gervais Cordin, 14 Bryce Heem , 13 Isaiah Toeava, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Anthony Etrillard (captain), 1 Jean Baptiste Gros,
Replacements: 16 Bastien Soury, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Julien Ory, 22 Tane Takulua, 23 Masivesi Dakuwaqa.
Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Daniel Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas,
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 John Afoa, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Piers O’Conor, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, George Clancy
TMO: Brian McNeice