Bristol Suffer Welsh Defeat
Bristol Rugby 14 - 36 London Welsh
Bristol Rugby suffered their fourth successive play-off defeat as London Welsh recorded a comfortable bonus-point 36-14 win.
Head Coach Paul Hull will rue a litany of unforced errors, including two intercept tries and a charge-down try, which gifted Welsh victory in the Pool A clash at the Memorial Stadium.
George Watkins scored two Bristol tries in a physical affair that saw Jamie Miller, Jason Hobson, Sam Alford and Jack Tovey hobble off the field with injuries. Second-half replacement Ed Barnes saw yellow to cap a disappointing evening for the hosts.
Bristol were determined to banish the memories of last weekend and started brightly when Sam Alford’s quick-thinking at the breakdown almost engineered a break for James Merriman. But the hosts suffered an early setback when Jamie Miller, drafted into the side for the injured Roy Winters, was stretchered off after 15 minutes.
London Welsh took full advantage and broke the deadlock with a brilliantly executed try, courtesy of Liam Gibson. After concerted pressure in the Bristol 22, the visitors moved the ball quickly through the backline and Gibson went over from close range. Gordon Ross dragged his conversion wide so the score remained 5-0.
Bristol’s problems worsened minutes later when Michael Hills charged down Mark Davies attempted clearance and raced in under the posts. Ross added the simplest of conversions to stretch the lead to 12-0.
Bristol scored their first points of the evening on the half hour mark, George Watkins touching down after Marco Mama’s lung-bursting 80m run. The no.8 intercepted a stray pass in his own 22 and accelerated along the touchline before feeding Watkins who added the finishing touches to a scintillating counter-attack. Davies slotted the extras to reduce the deficit to 12-7.
London Welsh were gifted another try late in the half as Errie Claassens snaffled Alford’s pass on the halfway line and dashed over unchallenged to score. Ross’ successful conversion gave the visitors a commanding 19-7 lead at the break.
Gordon Ross notched his first penalty of the evening after the interval as London Welsh edged further ahead at 22-7. Despite the loss of Miller, Hobson and Sam Alford through injury during the game, Bristol soldiered onwards and camped themselves in the opposition 22 for long periods of the second period. However, a combination of spilt passes and confusion in the backline relieved the pressure for the visitors and allowed them to clear the ball downfield.
London Welsh seemed content to sit back and capitalise on Bristol’s errors. It was a gameplan that worked effectively. This time, Gordon Ross broke the defensive line to intercept Montagu’s long pass to score London Welsh’s fourth try. Ross converted to make the score 29-7.
Bristol’s indiscipline resurfaced again when Ed Barnes was sin-binned for dissent late in the game. George Watkins reduced the arrears with a consolation second try, collecting Mark Davies delicate chip to cross the whitewash. Davies slotted the conversion to cut the lead to 29-14 but soon after London Welsh posted their fifth try. After pressure from the pack on the Bristol tryline, referee Paul Knowles awarded a penalty try for consistent infringing. Gordon Ross kicked the final points of the game, capping a 36-14 result for the visitors.
Sean Marsden; Anthony Elliott, Jack Tovey, Junior Fatialofa, George Watkins; Mark Davies, Sam Alford; Mark Irish, David Blaney, Jason Hobson, Dan Montagu, Darren Barry, Iain Grieve ©, James Merriman, Jamie Miller.
Replacements: Ollie Hayes (for Jack Tovey, 72 mins), Wayne Thompson (for Jason Hobson, 32 mins), Mako Vunipola (for Mark Irish, 63 mins), Mariano Sambucetti (for Marco Mama, 62 mins), Marco Mama (for Jamie Miller, 12 mins), Richard Bolt (for Sam Alford, 56 mins), Ed Barnes (for Junior Fatialofa, 41 mins).
Aled Thomas; Liam Gibson, Hudson Tonga’uiha, Simon Whatling, Errie Claassens; Gordon Ross, Nick Runciman; Shawn Pittman, Saul Nelson, Lorne Ward, Mike Powell, Matt Corker, Jonathan Mills ©, Michael Hills, Ben Russell.
Replacements: Villa Ma’asi (for Saul Nelson, 32 mins), Max Lahiff (for Lorne Ward, 70 mins), Martin Purdy (for Matt Corker, 70 mins), Lee Beech (for Ben Russell, 63 mins), Rob Lewis (for Nick Runciman, 72 mins), Paul Sampson (for Liam Gibson, 68 mins), Paul Mackey (for Hudson Tonga’uiha, 66 mins).
Referee: Paul Knowles