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Report: Bristol Bears 10-12 Exeter Chiefs

Bristol Bears’ hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the Premiership Rugby Cup came to an end on Saturday, as a penalty try ten minutes from time saw Exeter Chiefs snatch a two-point victory at Ashton Gate for the second time this season.

Greg Holmes’ fifth-minute try was the only score of a tightly-contested first-half at a rain-soaked Ashton Gate, but Ryan Edwards applied a pacey finish to a well-worked set-piece move just one minute into the second period to edge Bristol in front.

Harry Thacker had a try ruled out for obstruction five minutes later, before Madigan’s penalty extended the Bristol lead to five points with 30 minutes remaining.

But it was the Chiefs’ scrum who had the final say in the closing stages to snatch another late victory over Pat Lam’s side and keep their hopes of progression alive.

What happened?

Chiefs started brightly at a sodden Ashton Gate and got the first score of the afternoon on eight minutes, when captain Greg Holmes powered his way to the line from close range after the Chiefs’ driving lineout had taken them within inches of the whitewash.

At the other end, Ian Madigan’s long-range penalty attempt drifted wide after some sensational link-up play between John Afoa and Jordan Lay forced a high tackle on the former All Black.

And the home side almost levelled the scores on 27 minutes when more dazzling handling in the midfield, from Afoa and Steven Luatua, freed up Luke Morahan who was beaten to his kick ahead by the covering Ollie Woodburn.

Chiefs went back on the offensive shortly before the break, as Skinner’s pinpoint kick to the corner put Rob Baxter’s side within striking distance. But the Bristol defence held firm, as Chiefs took a narrow advantage into the break.

Ryan Edwards touches down for Bristol.

With the rain getting heavier, Bristol burst into life in the second-half as Ryan Edwards scorched over from a perfectly executed set-piece move, with Madigan’s conversion edging the hosts in front.

Harry Thacker thought he had extended the lead five minutes later, but his try was chalked off for an adjudged obstruction in the build-up.

Madigan’s penalty, after a big shove at scrum time, gave Bristol a five-point advantage on 51 minutes.

But the Chiefs weren’t finished - and after their pack got up another head of steam at the scrum, Luke Pearce went under the posts to award a penalty try and with it, sink Bristol’s hopes of progression in the competition.

Teams and scorers

Bristol Bears: Daniels (Sheedy 70), Morahan, O’Conor, Pisi (Hurrell 59), Edwards, Madigan, Randall (Stirzaker 76); Jo Lay (Ja Lay 36), Thacker (Lindsay 69), Afoa (cc) (Thiede 69), Hawkins (Heenan 69), Muldowney, Vui, D Thomas, Luatua.
Replacements: Lindsay, Ja Lay, Thiede, Batley, Heenan, Stirzaker, Sheedy, Hurrell.

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Cuthbert, Bodilly, Hendrickson, Woodburn (Short 76), Skinner, S Maunder (Snow 59); Low (Keast 52), Innard (Taione 59), Holmes (c) (Street 69), Caulfield (Atkins 48), Lees, Ewers, Capstick, Lawday (Van der Sluys 69).
Replacements: Taione, Keast, Street, Atkins, Van der Sluys, Snow, Morley, Short.

Bristol Bears: Tries: Edwards 41. Cons: Madigan 41. Pens: Madigan 51

Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Holmes 8, Penalty 69.

Key moment:

For the second time this season, a late penalty try decided proceedings at Ashton Gate, as the Exeter scrum put Bristol on the back foot and Luke Pearce went under the posts to seal victory for the visitors. 

It was a score that saw Chiefs take a two-point lead into the final ten minutes, and one they would not relinquish.

Man of the match: Dan Thomas

In a game of small margins, Dan Thomas was at his industrious best in the number seven shirt.

The flanker earned his side two turnovers and put in a huge shift in both attack and defence as Bristol were edged out by Chiefs in another hard-fought West Country derby. 


Photo of the match:

Aly Muldowney on the charge (JMPUK).