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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Wednesday, December 7th 2022

Challenge Cup throwback: Bears win maiden European title

A night for the ages in Aix-en-Provence in October 2020, Pat Lam's Bristol Bears won their maiden European title with a historic victory over Toulon in the Challenge Cup Final.


European Challenge Cup Final
RC Toulon 19-32 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears won their maiden European trophy as they beat Toulon 32-19 in an enthralling Challenge Cup final at Stade Maurice-David.

On a historic night for the club, Harry Randall's try after 15 seconds set Pat Lam’s on their way to their first major honour since 1983, before Toulon hit back to lead 16-10 at the break.

But Max Malins' classy score on the hour and 22 points from the boot of Callum Sheedy saw the Bears storm clear in Aix-en-Provence to earn major silverware for the first time in 37 years.

The Bears were out of the blocks in record time in the south of France, crossing for the opening score after just 15 seconds, as Radradra and Leiua combined straight from the kick-off to send Randall over for the perfect start.

Sheedy’s opening penalty made it 10-0 three minutes later, but Toulon hit back with an opportunist try from Bryce Heem.

Thacker then saw his try disallowed for a knock-on as he attempted to ground at the tail of a driving lineout, before Louis Carbonel’s penalty levelled the scores.

The Bears had a second try disallowed on 26 minutes when Joe Joyce’s sensational finish in the corner was ruled out for an adjudged forward pass in the build-up.

At the other end, Toulon quickly gained a foothold in a topsy-turvy encounter courtesy of two more Carbonel penalties to take six-point lead at the interval.

Sheedy closed the gap to three with his second penalty of the evening, before Carbonel cancelled it out.

But a quick-fire double from the faultless boot of Sheedy’s levelled things up once again, leaving the silky-smooth Malins to glide his way to a second Bears try and edge his side closer to the finish line.

A huge shove at scrum time earned Sheedy a fifth successful penalty – and the number ten put the icing on the Bears cake with his sixth, as the Bears sealed a maiden European title in typically stylish fashion.

Bristol Bears: Malins; Morahan, Radradra (O’Conor 61), S Piutau (c), Leiua; Sheedy, Randall (Kessell 78); Y Thomas, (Woolmore 56) Thacker, Sinckler (Afoa 56), Attwood, Joyce, Vui, D Thomas, Earl.

System players: Kloska, Woolmore, Afoa, Holmes, Heenan, Uren, O’Conor, Adeolokun.

RC Toulon: Cordin; Heem, Toeava, Paia’aua, Villiere; Carbonel, Serin; Gros, Etrillard (c), Gigashvili, Etzebeth, Taofifenua, Ollivon, Lakafia, Parisse.

Replacements: Soury, Fresia, Setiano, Alainu’uese, Rebbadj, Ory, Takalua, Dakuwaqa.

Bristol Bears: Tries: Randall 1, Malins 61. Cons: Sheedy 1, 61. Pens: Sheedy 4, 48, 55, 58, 74, 77

RC Toulon: Tries: Heem 12. Cons: Carbonel 12. Pens: Carbonel 21, 36, 40, 52


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