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Match Report

Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter reports from

Posted Saturday, November 23rd 2019

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Report: Brive 0-36 Bristol Bears

A ferocious first-half display fired Bristol Bears to a spectacular bonus-point Challenge Cup victory over Brive at Stade Amédée-Domenech on Friday night, as Pat Lam’s men made it two wins from two in Pool Four.

In a wonderfully hard and clinical performance in south west France, Bristol blew away their Top 14 opponents with an exhibition of attacking rugby, scoring three times in the opening 26 minutes to set up a memorable European away win and inflict a first home defeat of the season on their hosts.

Toby Fricker, Harry Randall and Piers O’Conor got the ball rolling to give Bristol a commanding lead at the half time interval, before replacements Will Capon and Ed Holmes touched down in the final five minutes to complete a rousing win and ensure Bristol top the group with maximum points from their first two outings.

What happened?

After a sluggish start at Ashton Gate last weekend, Pat Lam’s men were quick out of the blocks this time around, crossing for opening try just six minutes in when Harry Randall’s zipped pass found Toby Fricker in space on the left-hand side. The wing had more than a little work to do on receipt, but with a powerful fend and spin out of the tackle, scored his second in successive weeks.

In drizzly conditions, the Bears were really fizzing early on, and a trademark gliding break from Luke Morahan, followed by a deft chip ahead, had the visitors back in enemy territory.

From the resulting lineout, referee Craig Evans awarded a penalty and Callum Sheedy stepped up to land an angled kick and extend the Bristol lead.

The fly half was straight back into the action just two minutes later. Located by Harry Thacker’s pulled back pass, Sheedy surged through a gap in the Brive defence before selling a dummy and then linking up with the supporting Harry Randall, who grabbed Bristol’s second for a 0-17 lead with just 16 minutes played.

The opening 30 minutes was all one-way traffic and the Bears soon had a third when Piers O’Conor joined a collective drive for the line to grab his second try in as many weeks. Sheedy’s curling conversion had Bristol firmly in charge.

Brive awoke four minutes before the interval, but Peniami Narisia’s charge for the line was held up by some heroic defensive work from Luke Hamilton. Two minutes later, they were at it again, but this time it was Max Lahiff with the telling intervention, forcing a knock-on just a metre short, as the visitors headed for the sheds with their line still intact.

The French side began the second half as they had finished the first – on the attack, and it took another spell of determined Bears defence to keep the hosts at bay.

But led by the imperious Steven Luatua, Bristol weathered the storm and soon went in search of the all-important bonus-point try.

They were made to work hard for it by a physical Brive side but were rewarded for their patience five minutes from time when Will Capon crashed over from a driving lineout to seal maximum points for the Bears.

There was still time for a fifth, as Ed Holmes rounded off another glossy handling move to provide a fitting finale to an outstanding performance on the road.

Key moment:

Three tries in the opening 26 minutes put Bristol Bears in a commanding position at the interval, but it was a ten-minute spell of spirited and determined defending that saw them keep their line intact.

Luke Hamilton's scrambling work to hold up Peniami Narisia’s charge was quickly followed by Max Lahiff forcing a turnover just inches short of the line. 

It was a spell that went a long way to completing a nilling of a side who were yet to lose at home this season.

Pat Lam reaction:

Man of the match: Steven Luatua

A quite sensational performance from the Herculean Bears captain. 

Steven Luatua led from the front in Brive, commanding the Bears defence with some telling interventions and vital work at the turnover, while also roaming free in the wider channels with powerful line running. 

The All Black made three clean breaks from the blindside flank in an outstanding, all-court display from Bristol's talismanic skipper. 

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  • KO: 12AM
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