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Will Carpenter reports from
Report: Bristol Bears 43-22 Zebre
Saturday, October 13th 2018
An explosive first-half display saw Bristol Bears kick off their European Challenge Cup campaign in style with a seven-try 43-22 victory over Zebre at Ashton Gate.
Pat Lam’s side scored six times in an exhilarating opening 40 minutes, as they bounced back from last week’s defeat to Worcester Warriors with a bonus-point victory over their Italian counterparts in the opening round of pool fixtures.
Ryan Edwards touched down for a first-half brace, while Alapati Leiua, Nick Haining and Jake Armstrong were also on the scoresheet for Bristol, who had the bonus-point sewn up inside 22 minutes before racing into a 36-10 lead at the interval.
Eduardo Bello and Tommaso Castello gave Zebre a lifeline with tries either side of the break, but Andy Uren’s 64th-minute score illuminated an otherwise scrappy second half, before replacement Tommaso Boni grabbed a late consolation for the visitors.
It took Bristol Bears just eight minutes to open the scoring in front of nearly 9,000 supporters at a blustery Ashton Gate, as Alapati Leiua sliced through the heart of the Zebre defence to dab down under the posts.
Francois Brummer got Zebre on the board with a penalty, but Bristol were soon in for their second as Hurrell fed Edwards in the left-hand corner.
Already two tries down, Zebre were soon a man down, with Giovanbattista Venditti sin-binned for a deliberate knock on. From the resulting penalty and lineout, Joe Latta powered over from close range to extend the home side’s lead.
Nick Haining sealed the bonus-point two minutes later after Siale Piutau’s initial bust, before Edwards grabbed his second courtesy of sensational break and pass from the impressive Callum Sheedy.
Eduardo Bello had a strong Zebre maul to thank for his try two minutes before half-time, but that was immediately cancelled out in identical fashion by Jake Armstrong’s first try in Bristol Bears colours.
Zebre were quickest out of the blocks in the second half, as Tommaso Castello latched on to Brummer’s deft grubber kick to go over unopposed, before Sheedy became the second player to see yellow for a deliberate knock on just shy of the hour mark.
But their numerical disadvantage had little impact on Bristol, who scored their seventh three minutes later. Will Hurrell with the gallop downfield and replacement scrum half, Andy Uren with the support and finish.
Zebre almost had their third try 12 minutes from time, but referee Frank Murphy – not for the first time – consulted the TMO, who ruled out Tommaso Boni’s score for a forward pass in the build-up.
But Boni wasn’t to be denied eight minutes later, going over in the corner after a sweeping handling move from the visitors.
There was still time for another disallowed try, as Sheedy’s break sent Tom Pincus under the sticks before being called back for a forward pass – and with the final action, Uren’s 80-metre charge saw him hauled down inches short of an eighth Bristol try.
But it mattered not, as Bristol Bears took maximum points from their Pool Four opener.
Bristol Bears: Pincus; Edwards (Pisi 40), Hurrell, Piutau (c) (Bedlow 41), Leiua; Sheedy, Stirzaker (Uren 46); Woolmore (Y Thomas 69), Malton (Lindsay 62), Armstrong (Afoa 43), Latta, Batley, Jeffries, D. Thomas (Heenan 66), Haining (Smith 39). Replacements: Lindsay, Y. Thomas, Afoa, Heenan, Smith, Uren, Bedlow, Pisi.
Zebre Rugby: Di Giulio, Bellini (Canna 58), Bisegni, Castello (c), Venditti (Boni 40), Brummer, Palazzani, Sisi, Tuivaiti (Zilocchi 47), Tauyavuca, Biagi, Krumov (Ortis 63), Bello (Tenga 57), Ceciliani (Luus 24), Ah-Nau (Lovotti 40). Replacements: Luus, Lovotti, Zilocchi, Ortis, Tenga, Raffaele, Canna, Boni.
Tries: Leiua 8, Edwards 13, 32, Latta 19, Haining 21, Armstrong 39, Uren 64. Cons: Sheedy 8, 19, 31, Bedlow 64. Yellow: Sheedy 61
Tries: Bello 38, Castello 43, Boni 75. Cons: Brummer 38, 43. Pens: Brummer 11. Yellow: Venditti 18
Pat Lam had called for response from his side following last week's defeat at Worcester - and the Bristol Bears head coach got that in the shape of a blistering first-half display from his side at Ashton Gate.
Six tries in the opening 40 minutes blew Zebre away and put the game beyond the Italians, as Alapati Leiua, Ryan Edwards (2), Nick Haining, Joe Latta and Jake Armstrong all touched down for the home side.
Man of the match: Will Hurrell
For the second successive home game, Will Hurrell was named Bristol Bears' man of the match after another dominant display in the midfield.
Hurrell didn't score, but was at the heart of the hosts' dazzling attacking play - feeding Ryan Edwards for his second try midway through the first half, before laying it on a plate for Andy Uren on 64 minutes.
The centre was also impressive in defence, shutting down the Zebre midfield with a combination of powerful hits and disruption at the breakdown.
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