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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Friday, January 25th 2019

As it happened: Challenge Cup pool stage

Bristol Bears booked their place in the knockout stages of the European Challenge Cup for the first time in 12 years after four wins from their six Pool Four games saw them qualify as a best runner-up.

Pat Lam's side beat Zebre and La Rochelle once and Enisei-STM twice to seal second place in the pool and set up a last eight clash with the eventual pool winners, La Rochelle on Sunday, 31st March.

Relive all of the action from the pool stage of the competition, as we take a look back at our European campaign so far.

Round one - Bristol Bears 43-22 Zebre

An explosive first-half display saw Bristol Bears kick off their European Challenge Cup campaign in style with a seven-try 43-22 victory over Zebre at Ashton Gate.

Pat Lam’s side scored six times in an exhilarating opening 40 minutes, to kick off the Pool Four with a bonus-point victory over their Italian counterparts.

Ryan Edwards touched down for a first-half brace, while Alapati Leiua, Nick Haining and Jake Armstrong were also on the scoresheet for Bristol, who had the bonus-point sewn up inside 22 minutes before racing into a 36-10 lead at the interval.

Eduardo Bello and Tommaso Castello gave Zebre a lifeline with tries either side of the break, but Andy Uren’s 64th-minute score illuminated an otherwise scrappy second half, before replacement Tommaso Boni grabbed a late consolation for the visitors.


Round two - Zebre 20-17 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears were sunk by a last-gasp penalty goal to leave Parma empty handed in the European Challenge Cup.

Pat Lam’s men – who scored two first half tries through Tom Pincus - went down 20-17 to Zebre in a tightly contested encounter on Saturday.

Carlo Canna and Jimmy Tuivaiti crossed for Zebre to level proceedings, before Canna and Sheedy traded penalties to level the scores again at 17-17.

But Canna's last-gasp kick snatched victory for the Italians, to leave Bristol with a losing bonus-point for their efforts. 


Round three - Bristol Bears 22-35 La Rochelle

Bristol Bears succumbed to a second-half storm from visitors La Rochelle to go down 22-35 in Saturday’s European Challenge Cup clash at Ashton Gate.

Pat Lam’s side had led until the 39th minute thanks to two tries in the opening 20 minutes from Harry Thacker and Jake Heenan.

But the French side hit back through Gregory Alldritt and replacement Romain Sazy, on the stroke of half-time, to take a 14-10 lead into the interval. And they cut loose after the break, with three tries in 17 minutes from Jules Favre, Vincent Rattez and Jeremy Sinzelle.

Tom Pincus touched down courtesy of a Callum Sheedy cross-kick and Charlie Powell dashed over to secure a consolation bonus-point late on, but the 17-minute blitz from Jono Gibbes’ side proved the difference.


Round four - La Rochelle 3-13 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears recorded one of the most famous European victories in the club’s history with a dogged 13-3 victory over La Rochelle at Stade Marcel-Deflandre.

In torrential conditions, Jordan Crane’s second-half try and a committed defensive display ensured the visitors kept their Challenge Cup hopes alive.

Callum Sheedy kicked two penalties to cancel out Arthur Retiere's three-pointer, before Crane's try, following a charge down by Nick Haining, sealed a memorable win.


Round five - Enisei-STM 9-65 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears made it back-to-back away wins in the European Challenge Cup with an 11-try victory over Enisei STM in Sochi, to keep their hopes of a quarter-final spot well and truly alive.

Nick Fenton-Wells scored a hat-trick and Piers O’Conor touched down twice as Pat Lam’s side scored 38 unanswered second-half points to storm to their highest ever points tally in a European away fixture.

Joe Joyce, Nick Haining, Mat Protheroe, Jake Armstrong, Sam Graham and Tom Pincus also got in on the act, while Callum Sheedy kicked five conversions to seal a commanding win for Bristol more than 2,000 miles from home.


Round six - Bristol Bears 107-19 Enisei-STM

Bristol Bears booked their place in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup for the first time in 12 years, after a 17-try thrashing of Enisei-STM set up a return trip to La Rochelle in the last eight of the competition.

Andy Uren scored five tries – four in the first-half – as Bristol stormed to a record European win at Ashton Gate.

Ryan Edwards grabbed a hat-trick, Jordan Crane and Tom Pincus two apiece, and there was one each for Tom Lindsay, Yann Thomas, Piers O’Conor, Sam Graham and Reiss Cullen, as Pat Lam’s men secured a best runner-up spot in Pool Four.


Quarter-final draw

After finishing as seventh seeds in the European Challenge Cup pool stage, Bristol Bears now face a return trip to Stade Marcel-Deflandre to take on Top 14 high-flyers, La Rochelle on the weekend on Sunday, 31st March (1:45pm KO). 

It is the first time in 12 years that Bristol Bears have reached the knockout stage of a European competition, with the winner of this quarter-final facing Sale Sharks or Connacht. 

More information will follow as soon as it is available.