- Gallagher Premiership
- Friday, August 31st 2018
- Ashton Gate
Will Carpenter reports from Ashton Gate
Report: Bristol Bears 17-10 Bath Rugby
Friday, August 31st 2018
Alapati Leiua’s 73rd-minute try fired Bristol Bears to a thrilling derby victory over Bath Rugby on the opening day of the new Gallagher Premiership season.
The Samoan wing gathered Luke Morahan’s offload to dive in seven minutes from time and send a capacity Ashton Gate crowd into raptures on a pulsating night in BS3.
Three penalties from the boot of Ian Madigan had given Pat Lam’s side a 9-0 lead early in the second-half, but Tom Homer’s 53rd-minute try – after an earlier mishap saw him spill the ball over the whitewash – together with a conversion and a penalty from the boot of Rhys Priestland, looked to have snatched it for Bath, with Tusi Pisi in the sin bin.
But Madigan’s fourth penalty on 69 minutes edged Bristol back in front, before Leiua lifted the roof of Ashton Gate with a try that will live long in the home fans' memory.
A blistering first half saw Bristol Bears take a 6-0 lead into the changing rooms courtesy of two Ian Madigan penalties, with Bath were left to reflect on a number of squandered opportunities. First, Priestland saw his 12th-minute penalty drift wide of the uprights, before Tom Homer had a moment to forget in front of the South Stand, spilling the ball as he looked to dab down unopposed.
Bristol almost went one better as half-time approached, with man of the match Luke Morahan gliding through a hole in the Bath defence before being hauled down metres short by the covering Cokanasiga.
When play resumed after the interval, Madigan’s third penalty extended Bristol’s lead, before Priestland spurned another chance to get his side on the board with a second miss from the tee.
But the Welshman made no mistake four minutes later, converting Tom Homer’s try as the full back made amends for his earlier blip by adding the finishing touches to Zach Mercer’s powerful surge.
Bristol's resilience was then dealt a blow when Tusi Pisi was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on just metres from his own line, with Priestland knocking over the resulting penalty to edge Bath into the lead for the first time in the match.
It didn't last long, as Bristol, down to 14 men, regrouped, with Madigan’s fourth successful kick of the night regaining the lead with 11 minutes left to play.
With time ticking away - and roared on by the Ashton Gate faithful – Morahan carved another opening before handing on to Leiua, who, at the second time of asking, grasped the ball and the game for Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears.
Bristol Bears: Daniels (Edwards 32 (Sheedy 78)); Morahan, Hurrell, Pisi, Leiua; Madigan, Stirzaker (Uren 52); Thomas (Woolmore 63), Thacker (Malton 58), Afoa (Armstrong 63), Holmes, Vui (Latta 57), Luatua (c), Smith, Crane (Lam 44).
Replacements: Malton, Woolmore, Armstrong, Latta, Lam, Uren, Sheedy, Edwards.
Bath Rugby: Homer, Rokoduguni, Willison, Roberts, Cokanasiga, Priestland, Cook; Catt, Walker, Thomas, Attwood, Garvey, Mercer, Underhill, Faletau.
Replacements: Dunn, Vaughan, Perenise, Stooke, Louw, Green, Burns, Brew.
Back to their full allocation after Tusi Pisi's sin-binning, Bristol Bears led by just two points heading into a nervy final seven minutes. Enter, Luke Morahan.
The Australian wing stepped and swerved his way through the heart of the Bath defence, before locating the supporting - and juggling - Alapati Leiua, who touched down for the all-important match-winning try to send Ashton Gate into ecstasy.
Moments don't get any bigger than that.
Man of the match: Luke Morahan
What a way to announce yourself to the Gallagher Premiership.
Bristol Bears supporters will have seen it throughout last season, but Luke Morahan stormed on to the big stage in sensational style in the West Country derby.
The Wallaby came close to opening the scoring midway through the first half with a trademark surge downfield, before being hauled down just short.
But it was his break and offload that sealed the deal for the home side, laying it on a plate for Leiua to finish with aplomb.
Photo of the match:
Social media posts of the day:
- Madigan (4)
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