Gallery: Bristol Rugby 18-13 Bedford Blues
Posted: Sunday, January 28th 2018
Monday, January 29th 2018
Nick Haining struck late as Bristol Rugby came from behind to beat Bedford Blues 18-13 in a fiercely contested GKIPA Championship clash at Ashton Gate on Sunday.
The replacement number eight powered over ten minutes from time to seal victory in front of the Sky Sports cameras, as Pat Lam’s side overturned a five-point half-time deficit to maintain their 100 percent league record.
Dean Adamson’s 12th-minute try - with Chris Vui in the sin-bin – and two penalties from the boot of Will Hooley had put the visitors in the ascendency at the break, despite Luke Morahan’s sliding finish on the half-hour mark.
Ian Madigan notched penalties in either half to keep Bristol within striking distance of a spirited Blues side, before Haining’s powerful surge from the base of a scrum and Madigan’s conversion completed the home side’s comeback in the closing stages.
Steven Luatua and Tom Varndell returned to the starting line-up as Bristol returned to league action after a four-week absence. Varndell’s inclusion saw Alapati Leiua switch to the midfield, with Luatua linking up with Sam Jeffries and Dan Thomas in the back row.
Bristol were dealt an early blow when Chris Vui was shown a yellow card for an infringement at the maul, as Bedford took full control in the opening quarter.
Vui limped off shortly after returning from the bin, to be replaced by Nick Haining, but not before Bedford had come closest to the opening score when Sean McCarthy was held up over the whitewash by a scrambling Bristol defence.
The visitors soon capitalised on their numerical advantage with a try from wing Dean Adamson, who crossed out wide to open the scoring after a long period of possession in the hosts’ 22, with Hooley adding the conversion.
Madigan got Bristol on the board 15 minutes in, stroking over an angled penalty from just outside 22 after disruptive work at the breakdown from Dan Thomas – but Hooley replied in kind to restore Bedford’s seven-point lead on 26 minutes.
Bristol’s first try of the afternoon arrived six minutes later, when Luke Morahan showed an electric turn of the pace and predatory instinct, as he chased down Rhodri Williams box kick to pickpocket Chris Czekaj and slide in on the right-hand side.
Madigan’s conversion attempt drifted wide, but Hooley’s second penalty five minutes before half-time was bang on target as Bedford took a five-point lead into the break.
Pat Lam rang the changes early in the second half, as Ryan Bevington and Ross McMillan replaced Soane Tong’uiha and Jason Harris-Wright in the front-row, but his side had to wait until the 57th minute to register their first points of the half, which came courtesy of a second Madigan penalty.
Bedford continued to press forward and thought they had grabbed a second try when Howard Packman raced in untouched from 30 metres, only for it to be ruled out for obstruction by the TMO.
It was a call that proved crucial in the context of the match, as seven minutes later, Haining’s pace and power from the base of a five-metre scrum gave Bristol the lead for the first time in the match, with Madigan’s conversion sealing a 14th-successive league win for the GKIPA Championship leaders.
After Ian Madigan’s penalty had closed the gap to two points early in the second half, Howard Packman’s try looked to have put Bedford at least seven points ahead, with the conversion to come.
But the score was quickly ruled out by the TMO for an obstruction the build-up, and seven minutes later, Nick Haining crashed over for the match-winning try at the end of a defining ten-minute period.
The Welshman has been in sensational form throughout the season, and this was another trademark performance from the energetic openside.
Thomas was at his disruptive best at the breakdown, earning four turnovers for his side as Bristol ground out a narrow victory at Ashton Gate.
The former Gloucester player has been an ever-present for Pat Lam this season - featuring in every GKIPA Championship fixture so far - with this just one of many standout performances in the blue and white hoops.
Bristol Rugby: J Williams, Morahan, Leiua, Pisi (c) (Searle 63), Varndell (Tovey 74); Madigan, R Williams; Tonga’uiha (Bevington 46), Harris-Wright (McMillan 46), Faletau, Joyce, Vui (Haining 36), Jeffries, Thomas,
Replacements: McMillan, Bevington, Dawe, Haining, Uren, Searle, Tovey.
Bedford Blues: Czekaj, Packman, Lane, LeBourgeois (c), Adamson, Hooley, Dickson; McCarthy, Lindsay, Cooper, Onojaife, Carrick-Smith, Blanchet, Rae, Williams.
Replacements: Edgson, Parilli-Ocampo, Penny, Taylor, Buggea, Burns, Clement-Hill.
Images courtesy of JMPUK.