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Match Report

Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter reports from

Posted Friday, September 18th 2020

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Report: Bristol Bears 56-17 Dragons Rugby

Bristol Bears stormed into the last four of the European Challenge Cup with a devastating seven-try demolition of Dragons at Ashton Gate.

Despite falling 10-0 behind to Ashton Hewitt’s 13th-minute score and a Sam Davies penalty, Pat Lam’s men turned the tide in dazzling fashion, twice scoring three tries in six minutes to set up a home semi-final against Bordeaux or Edinburgh.

Ben Earl grabbed a quickfire double after Nathan Hughes had got the ball rolling – and it was more of the same after the interval, with Radradra racing over for a 60-metre solo score.

In a frenzied finale, the Bears scored three more courtesy of Chris Vui, Max Malins and Dan Thomas, to complete a commanding victory and send them soaring into the next round.

What happened?

An error-laden opening quarter saw the Dragons storm into a 10-point lead courtesy of a Sam Davies' left boot. The fly half’s 10th-minute penalty opened the scoring, before a pinpoint cross-field laid on a superb try for Ashton Hewitt, whose muscular finish had the Bears on the back foot.

But out of nothing, Lam’s men roared into the contest, with three tries in just six minutes turning the game on its head.

Piutau’s trademark counter-attack linked nicely with the supporting Morahan, creating an overlap on the right-hand side for Hughes to dot down.

Radradra and Piutau combined to send Earl over for his first of the night, then straight from the restart, the Bears were at it again – Thacker with the bust down the left touchline and Radradra’s delicious offload locating a fleet-footed Earl, whose nifty footwork saw him beat Jordan Williams on a sixpence.

Sheedy added a penalty before missing another from long range, as the Bears headed into the break with a 14-point advantage.

After orchestrating two of the first three tries, Radradra soon got in on the act himself, racing on to Sheedy’s delicate offload and rounding a scrambling Dragons defence.

Rhodri Williams gave the Dragons a lifeline with the sort of try commonly seen at Ashton Gate during his two-year stint in the West Country.

Sheedy’s second penalty of the evening nudged the hosts further in front on 54 minutes, and the fly half added his third 11 minutes from time.

A flurry of tries signed off a rampant display from the Bears, as they soared towards a home semi-final – first Vui spun his way to the line, and then replacement Malins applied the finishing touches to surges from Morahan and Earl.

There was still time for one more, with Malins involved again and Dan Thomas walking over after Randall’s quickly taken penalty.

Teams and scorers

Bristol Bears: Tries: Hughes 21, Earl 24, 26, Radradra 43, Vui 73, Malins 75, D Thomas 77. Cons: Sheedy 21, 24, 26, 43. Pens: Sheedy 31, 54, 69

Dragons: Tries: Hewitt 13, R Williams 51. Cons: Davies 13, 51. Pens: Davies 10

Key moment

Three tries in six first-half minutes saw the Bears overturn an early ten-point deficit and take a 14-point lead into the break.

But Semi Radradra's magnificent solo effort, after Callum Sheedy's subtle offload, sealed the deal for Pat Lam's men and sent them roaring towards the last four.

Pat Lam reaction

Man of the match: Ben Earl

Two tries in four minutes from Ben Earl turned the game on its head, but this performance was about far more than just the end product.

The back row dynamo was sensational on both sides of the ball, running wild in the loose and affecting turnovers in the tight. Earl's delightful step on Dragons' full back Jordan Williams was one of many highlights from another commanding Bristol win.

Social media reaction

Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards:
  • KO: 12AM
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