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Report: Castres Olympique 30-21 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears went down 30-21 to a strong Castres outfit in an entertaining pre-season encounter on Thursday evening.

Pat Lam’s men led midway through the second period, thanks to tries from Dan Thomas, Mat Protheroe and Toby Fricker, but were pegged back by Tapu Falatea’s late double.

After an early penalty goal for the hosts, Bristol posted the first try at Stade de la Balmette when Dan Thomas exploited a gap to go under the posts for a converted score.

Mat Protheroe added a quickfire second soon after when the pacy full back took advantage of Harry Randall’s smart break to accelerate over the whitewash.

On the stroke of half-time, Castres reduced the deficit to 10-14, courtesy of Camille Gérondeau’s close-range effort.

Following the interval, Ben Lapeyre’s penalty drew the French side to within a point, before Ian Madigan released Toby Fricker with a fizzing pass to add Bristol’s third of the evening.

Then, with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, the powerful Falatea touched down twice, first from the back of a close-range scrum and then from a bulldozing break inside Bristol’s 22.

An 80th minute Lapeyre penalty sealed the 30-21 win for Castres, but Lam and his coaching team will be buoyed by an encouraging first hit out for the Bears.

Bristol Bears squad:

Backs: Mat Protheroe, Luke Daniels, Tom Pincus, Jack Bates, Piers O’Conor, Charlie Powell, Harry Ascherl, Ian Madigan, Ryan Edwards, Toby Fricker, Callum Sheedy, Ioan Lloyd, Harry Randall, Nick Stirzaker, Andy Uren.

Forwards: Jake Woolmore, Ollie Dawe, Yann Thomas, George Kloska, Tom Lindsay, Harry Thacker, Will Capon, John Afoa, Nicky Thomas, Yann Thomas, Lewis Thiede, John Hawkins, Ed Holmes, Dave Attwood*, Aly Muldowney, Joe Batley, Joe Joyce, Dan Thomas, Steve Luatua, Jake Heenan, Nathan Hughes*.

*Travelled on camp but will not feature versus Castres.