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Report: Exeter Braves 28-19 Bristol United

A second half fightback wasn't enough for Bristol United as they fell to a 28-19 defeat to Exeter Braves in the opening round of the A League. 

Tries from Sam Bedlow, Joe Quinn and Maliq Holden saw United battle back from 21-0 down at a rain-soaked Sandy Park, but Moray Low, Tom O'Flaherty, Will Chudley and a penalty try sealed a bonus-point victory for Exeter. 


What happened?

It was a lively start to proceedings and Exeter Braves took the lead on 12 minutes courtesy of a penalty try at the scrum, as the hosts took an early upper hand.

United lost hooker Jordon Liney and number eight Dan Thurston to injury in quick succession, as they battled against a strong Braves side and the persistent Devon rain.

The hosts doubled their advantage on 29 minutes when second row Moray Low powered over from close range – while minutes later, Tom O’Flaherty took advantage of a loose ball to slide over for Braves’ third on the half hour mark. Simmonds landed both conversions to give Exeter a 21-0 lead.

But United hit back with a try shortly before the interval, when Sam Bedlow pounced in-goal after Sheedy’s probing grubber kick had caused uncertainty in the Braves ranks, while Sheedy's conversion made it 21-7.

Ryan Edwards takes on the Exeter defence (JMP UK).

The hosts though, restored their lead early in the second half when Jack Wallace’s clearance was charged down and scrum half Will Chudley was first to the loose ball to seal Braves' bonus-point.

United needed a response and got one through Joe Quinn, who powered over from close range to reduce the deficit - and with eight minutes remaining, Maliq Holden collected Sheedy’s pinpoint cross-field kick to score in the right-hand corner. Sheedy’s touchline conversion set up a nervy finale for the hosts.

United continued to press in the closing stages, but were unable to find an all important fourth try as the Braves defence stood firm to secure a bonus-point win. 

Key moment:

Exeter Braves were quickest out of the blocks, scoring three tries in the first half to take a 21-0 lead. It was deficit that United were unable to overturn in the driving rain at Sandy Park. 

Man of the match: Callum Sheedy

Sheedy was at his influential best in difficult conditions at Sandy Park, creating two of United's three tries with his deft kicking game. His probing grubber saw Bedlow touch down shortly before half time, before his cross-kick picked out Holden late in proceedings. 

The fly half also kicked a penalty and a touchline conversion, but it wasn't quite enough to prevent United from falling to a nine-point defeat. 

Photo of the match:

Callum Sheedy feeds the ball into midfield during torrential rain at Sandy Park (JMP UK).

Teams:

Exeter Braves: Mike Haines, Tom O'Flaherty, Tom Hendrickson, Harry Strong, Harrison Cully, Joe Simmonds, Will Chudley; Moray Low, Shaun Malton, Greg Holmes, Ed Holmes, Wilhelm van der Sluys, James Freeman, Julian Salvi (capt), James McRae.

Replacements: Jack Innard, Alec Hepburn, Jack Owlett, Lewis Pearson, Sean Lonsdale, Aaron Bagwell, Gwyn Parks, Suva Ma'asi.

Bristol United: Jack Wallace; Ryan Edwards, Thretton Palamo, Sam Bedlow, Tom Hargan; Callum Sheedy, Andy Uren; Jack O’Connell, Jordon Liney, Nick English, Joe Joyce (c), Joe Quinn (Hartpury BUCS), Tom Pashley (Hartpury BUCS), Olly Robinson, Dan Thurston.

Replacements: Ben Gompels (Bristol University), Tom Rowland, Alex Gibson (Hartpury BUCS), Max Cresswell (Bristol University), Dave Watchorn (Bristol University), Reiss Cullen, Robbie Forbes (Hartpury BUCS), Maliq Holden (Hartpury BUCS).

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