- Gallagher Premiership
- Friday, May 3rd 2019
- Ashton Gate
Will Carpenter reports from Ashton Gate
Report: Bristol Bears 20-20 Sale Sharks
Friday, May 3rd 2019
A breathless, intoxicating, extraordinary finale to this Gallagher Premiership encounter saw Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks eventually share the spoils in a clash that had drama right up until the final whistle.
In an astonishing finale, Faf De Klerk’s stoppage-time penalty rebounded back off the post, just a minute after Ian Madigan’s effort had faded agonisingly wide of the upright.
But the theatre wasn’t finished there, with De Klerk’s miss sparking a dazzling Bears counter-attack that saw the hosts, roared on by more than 20,000 supporters at Ashton Gate, storm 80 metres upfield where Tom Pincus was hauled down five metres short of the line.
In the ensuing melee, the loose ball found its way into the hands of AJ Macginty, who briefly threatened to release De Klerk, before nudging into touch to conclude an absorbing contest.
This game was your archetypal slow burner, with a cagey first-half eventually giving way to a fascinating second.
Pat Lam’s side trailed by three points at the break, as Denny Solomona’s ninth-minute interception was cancelled out by the returning Charles Piutau midway through the half, collecting Callum Sheedy’s offload to power over.
Penalties from AJ Macginty and Faf De Klerk put the Sharks six ahead, before Sheedy narrowed the deficit on the stroke of half time, but we were only getting started.
A stunning counter attack from the visitors brought the game to life two minutes into the second 40, as De Klerk rounded off a move started by Aaron Reed and laid on a plate for the scrum half by Ben Curry.
Bristol hit back immediately, with Piers O’Conor and Charles Piutau combining to squeeze Alapati Lieua in the corner via the TMO.
The Samoan looked to have scored a spectacular second 12 minutes from time, ghosting through the Sale defence from 50 metres to touch down with relative ease. But the TMO call went against him this time, penalising Sheedy for an alleged infringement in the build-up.
The fly half levelled things up with a penalty in front of the posts before being replaced by Madigan – and the Irishman was quickly into the action, as his 77th-minute kick, from all of 50 metres, was narrowly off target.
With the clock almost in the red, Jono Ross was sent to the sin-bin for an illegal clear-out and Madigan watched a second kick drift excruciatingly wide – but still, we weren’t done.
De Klerk restarted the game with a drop-out before Tom Curry pounced to win Sale a penalty 45 metres out. The Springbok stepped up but saw his angled kick strike the upright and fall into the arms of Harry Thacker.
A draw suited nobody – and it certainly showed, as Bristol launched a remarkable assault from their own half.
But Pincus was denied metres short, the ball spilt loose and the madness briefly threatened to continue, as Macginty pinned his ears back for the far corner. With De Klerk in support, the hosts cut off the South African’s supply route and the Sale fly half kicked clear to end another dramatic evening at Ashton Gate.
Teams and scorers:
Bristol Bears: C Piutau; Pincus, O’Conor, S Piutau, Leiua; Sheedy (cc) (Madigan 71), Uren (Randall 58); Y Thomas (Lay 58), Thacker, Afoa, Holmes, Vui, Luatua (cc), D Thomas, Haining (Smith 61). Replacements: Fenton-Wells, Ja Lay, Thiede, Crane, Smith, Randall, Madigan, Daniels.
Sale Sharks: Ashton, Solomona, S James, L James, Reed, Macginty, de Klerk; Harrison, Webber, John, Beaumont, Phillips, B Curry, T Curry, Ross (c). Replacements: Langdon, Morozov, Jones, Postlethwaite, Strauss, Cliff, Redpath, Nott.
Bristol Bears: Tries: Piutau 29, Leiua 47. Cons: Sheedy 29, 47. Pens: Sheedy 38, Sheedy 70
Sale Sharks: Tries: Solomona 9, De Klerk 42. Cons: Macginty 9, 42. Pens: Macginty 15, De Klerk 34. Yellow: Ross 80
Alapati Leiua looked to have scored his second try when, midway through the second half, the Samoan stormed clear after returning a stray kick.
But a long TMO delay ensued, with referee Matt Carley ruling the try out for an infringement by Callum Sheedy, but then awarding Bristol a penalty.
Confusion reigned, but Bristol were denied.
Man of the match: Chris Vui
Another magnificent display from one of Bristol's most consistent performers.
Samoa captain, Chris Vui, carried brilliantly in the loose, linking play beautifully with soft hands.
But it's not all finesse with Vui, with the lock defending aggressively and ruling the skies at lineout time.
Photo of the match:
- Piutau, Leiua
- Sheedy (2)
- Sheedy (2)
- Yellow Cards:
- Solomona, de Klerk
- MacGinty (2)
- MacGinty, de Klerk
- Yellow Cards: