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Will Carpenter


Posted Friday, August 24th 2018

Report: Bristol Bears 12-14 Connacht

Bristol Bears fell to a narrow defeat in their final pre-season clash before the start of the Gallagher Premiership campaign, as two Connacht tries in ten second-half minutes condemned Pat Lam’s side to a 14-12 defeat at Ashton Gate on Friday night.

Luke Daniels 15th-minute score had given the hosts a 5-0 lead at half-time, but tries from Matt Healy and Paul Boyle – either side of Andy Uren’s 40-metre run-in – and two Jack Carty conversions saw Connacht edge it on a drizzly night in BS3.  

What happened?

Luke Daniels sparked a healthy Ashton Gate crowd into life on 15 minutes, when the former Ealing Trailfinders man ghosted through a gap in Connacht’s blind-side defence to slide over untouched, after snappy handling in the five-metre channel had created space for the full-back to pounce.

And Daniels was back in the action seven minutes later with a courageous defensive double,  scything down Connacht’s Robin Copeland after the number eight had busted a hole in the hosts defence, before halting Matt Healy inches short in the left-hand corner just three phases later.

In an attritional first half, George Smith announced himself to the Ashton Gate faithful with two trademark turnovers, while Yann Thomas’ stirred proceedings with a 20-metre charge into Connacht territory shortly before the half-time whistle.  

Nic Stirzaker in action at Ashton Gate (JMP UK).

It was Connacht who made the livelier start to the second period and their early pressure told as Matt Healy went over in the corner after strong a set-piece from the visitors.

But Bristol hit back almost immediately, as Steven Luatua intercepted and handed on to replacement scrum-half Andy Uren, who won the foot-race to the line from 40 metres. Madigan added the extras.

Connacht though, continued to enjoy possession and territory, and after Jake Woolmore was sent to the sin bin just three minutes after coming on as a replacement, Paul Boyle bundled over from close range with Carty’s conversion edging the visitors back in front.

Key moment:

After Matt Healy had cancelled out Luke Daniels’ first-half score, Bristol suffered a double-hit on 54 minutes, when Jake Woolmore’s sin-binning was followed shortly after by Paul Boyle’s decisive try for Connacht, with Carty’s conversion sealing victory.

Photo of the match:

Luke Daniels slides in for Bristol Bears opening try (JMP UK).

The teams:

Bristol Bears: Daniels; Morahan, Leiua, S Piutau, Edwards (C Piutau 40 (O’Conor 51)); Madigan (Sheedy 71), Stirzaker (Uren 47); Thomas (Woolmore 51), Thacker (Fenton-Wells 51), Afoa (Armstrong 51), Holmes, Latta (Vui 40), Luatua (c), Smith, Lam (Crane 40).
Replacements: Fenton-Wells, Woolmore, Armstrong, Vui, Crane, Uren, Sheedy, C Piutau, O’Conor.

Connacht: O’Halloran, Kelleher, Godwin, Farrell, Healy, Carty, Mitchell; Buckley, Heffernan (C), Bealham, Dillane, Cannon, Connolly, Boyle, Copeland.
Replacements: Delahunt, McCabe, Carey, Maksymiw, Gallagher, McKeon, Ronaldson, Griffin, Roux, Adeolokun.

Bristol Bears: Tries: Daniels 15, Uren 50; Cons: Madigan 50
Connacht: Tries: Healy 43, Boyle 57; Cons: Carty 43, 57