Bears edge Saracens to move up to second
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: A penalty try four minutes from time saw the Bristol Bears snatch a dramatic 16-12 victory over Saracens, as the Premiership returned to a rain-soaked Ashton Gate for the first time since March.
Alex Goode’s fourth penalty of the day – cancelling out three from the boot of Callum Sheedy – had edged the visitors in front in the final quarter, after Luke Morahan saw his sensational long-range effort ruled out for obstruction.
But after Sheedy found a huge touch from a penalty on halfway, the Bears rumbled their way towards the whitewash, with Siale Piutau convinced he had scored. The TMO replays showed the Tongan centre in touch, but referee Carley spotted Jamie George’s cynical side entry and headed under the posts, with the England hooker shown a yellow card.
A tense finale followed as Saracens hammered away at the Bears’ line in search of the winning score – and despite Max Lahiff joining George in the sin bin, Pat Lam’s men held on to record a sixth successive league win.
Two penalties apiece were the only things to write home about from an error-strewn first half, as Sheedy and Goode traded blows from the kicking tee. After some early Saracens dominance saw the visitors take a six-point lead, the Bears began to find their feet, with Sheedy landing two from two to level the scores at the interval.
The second half started with a bang, as replacement Ben Earl, on for Nathan Hughes against his parent club, latched on to Harry Randall’s beautifully weighted kick to almost score with his very first touch. The back row was hauled down metres short, before Goode edged Saracens back in front at the other end of the field.
Story continues below…
6⃣ on the bounce.
Our record-breaking @premrugby run continues 🏃♂️ADVERTISEMENT
Gotta love them Bears 🐻 pic.twitter.com/zy1M8AUquA
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) August 15, 2020
A penalty at scrum time then gave Sheedy the opportunity to level the scores, and the flyhalf duly obliged from in front of the posts for 9-9 scoreline.
Then, a major talking, point. Morahan collected Wigglesworth’s long kick downfield and returned at pace, scything through the Saracens defence before wrongfooting Maitland to touch down for what appeared to be a stunning solo score. But it was not to be, as referee Carley adjudged Thacker to have blocked the chasing Itoje. It seemed harsh after a quite brilliant finish from the Wallaby.
And back came Saracens, with Goode’s penalty opening up a three-point lead in a dogged contest.
The visitors were now on top and only some valiant defending from the home side prevented the reigning champions from pulling further ahead.
But when the Bears were awarded a penalty just inside their own half, Sheedy came up with the game changing moment, driving his kick deep into Saracens territory and setting a perfect platform for the game’s decisive moment.
Piutau was convinced he’d dotted down inside the whitewash, but the end result proved even better for the hosts – a straight seven points and into the lead with minutes to play.
Uren’s spill inside his own 22 briefly caused some discomfort in the Bristol ranks, and when Lahiff saw yellow, it looked as if Saracens might snatch it.
But debutant Sinckler got the all-important touch at a last-gasp line-out, and the Bears held on for the grittiest of home wins.
For Bristol Bears
Try: Penalty try
Pens: Sheedy 3
Pens: Goode 4
Yellow cards: Jamie George (Saracens, 76); Max Lahiff (Bears, 79)
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Saracens: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Mike Rhodes, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Harry Sloan, 23 Elliott Obatoyinbo.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Adam Leal and Jake Makepeace
TMO: Claire Hodnett