- Gallagher Premiership
- Sunday, November 10th 2019
- Sandy Park
Will Carpenter reports from Sandy Park
Report: Exeter Chiefs 17-20 Bristol Bears
Sunday, November 10th 2019
Dan Thomas scored a dramatic winning try as Bristol Bears overturned a 17-point half-time deficit to record a first win at Sandy Park in more than ten years and go top of the Gallagher Premiership.
The replacement powered over from a driving lineout with the clock in the red, as Pat Lam’s men overturned the third-highest points tally in Gallagher Premiership history with the final play of the game in a thrilling West Country derby.
First-half tries from Sam Simmonds and Nic White had given Pat Lam's men a mountain to climb in the second period, but two Callum Sheedy penalties and a stunning try from Piers O’Conor clawed the Bears back within striking range as time ticked away.
With the clock in the red, Sheedy found the corner from a penalty on halfway, to provide the perfect platform from which to snatch the most dramatic of victories.
And the Bristol pack obliged, chewing up 20 metres before Thomas eventually touched down under a pile of bodies to complete the comeback and send Bristol top of the table going into the European break.
The Chiefs welcomed back their World Cup contingent for this fixture, and it was one of their England stars, Henry Slade, whose step and fend paved the way for Sam Simmonds to burrow over for the game’s opening score on 15 minutes.
Stuart Hogg’s searing break down the right-hand side led to Nic White doubling the Chiefs’ advantage eight minutes later, with Bristol yet to fire a shot.
Luke Morahan sparked the visitors into life on the half-hour mark, scything through the Chiefs defence but finding himself isolated behind enemy territory as Kvesic won the turnover.
The home side extended their lead further with Joe Simmonds’ third successful kick of the half after Bristol were penalised for a tackle off the ball.
At the other end, Bristol’s first meaningful spell of possession saw them awarded a penalty on the 22, with Sheedy kicking to the corner. But the five-metre drive went astray, and the home side took a comfortable lead into the break.
Sheedy’s long-range penalty got Bristol on the board early in the second period, before a superb covering tackle from Steven Luatua prevented Alex Cuthbert from scoring Chiefs’ third try.
A thumping hit from Piers O’Conor earned Sheedy another shot at goal, which the fly half duly accepted to close the gap to 11 points.
And when Nic White was shown a yellow card a deliberate knock on inside the Bristol 22, the visitors sensed an opportunity to get back into the contest.
They were right, as Morahan scurried clear down the right touchline before feeding O’Conor for a sensational score on the hour mark.
Chiefs regained a foothold but were unable to add to their first-half tally, as a crucial turnover from Dan Thomas gave Bristol room to breathe.
Another Bristol penalty at the lineout gave Sheedy the platform to fire the visitors into the corner, as Lam’s men began to sniff a little more than the losing bonus point.
And when Will Capon’s throw found Ed Holmes at the tail, the Bristol drive rumbled over the line and referee Karl Dickson consulted the TMO before ruling that Thomas had grounded the ball for a dramatic win.
Teams and scorers
Bristol Bears: C Piutau (Lloyd 67); Morahan, Hurrell (Fricker 55), S Piutau, O’Conor; Sheedy, Randall (Uren 54); Woolmore (Y Thomas 60), Thacker (Capon 69), Afoa (Thiede 40), Attwood (Holmes 60), Vui, Luatua (c), Heenan (D Thomas 40), Hughes.
Replacements: Capon, Y Thomas, Thiede, Holmes, D Thomas, Randall, Lloyd, Fricker.
Exeter Chiefs: Hogg, O’Flaherty, Slade, Hill, Cuthbert, Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Yeandle (c), Williams, Kirtsen, Hill, Vermeulen, Kvesic, Simmonds.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Keast, Street, Lonsdale, Armand, Maunder, Steenson, Nowell.
Exeter Chiefs: Tries: S Simmonds 15, White 23. Cons: J Simmonds 15, 23. Pens: Simmonds 33. Yellow: White 63
Bristol Bears: Tries: O’Conor 66, D Thomas 80. Cons: Sheedy 66, 80. Pens: Sheedy 43, 60
Only one candidate here - the decider.
Bristol had given themselves a mountain to climb at half time, as Exeter raced into a 17-point lead at the interval.
But Piers O'Conor crossed on the hour mark to bring the Bears back into the game, before Thomas applied the finishing touches to a huge driving maul to win the game with the clock in the red.
Incredible drama at Sandy Park! 😱— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 10, 2019
With time in the red, an almighty HEAVE from @BristolBears gets them over the line to win it!
Pat Lam's men are top of the league! What a comeback from 17-0 down! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Iyh0Ml10XR
Pat Lam reaction
🎥| "It's a huge effort, it was all about the mental fortitude to stay in the fight. We have confidence in our team - they were outstanding."— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) November 10, 2019
Pat Lam on stunning away-day win 👇 pic.twitter.com/Dz8PupfePI
Man of the match: Nathan Hughes
Yet another bulldozing display from the number eight, who has made a sensational start to life at Bristol Bears.
Hughes' delicate offload set Luke Morahan free to locate Piers O'Conor for Bristol's first score on the hour mark - and the England man applied his considerable force to the match-winning drive to cap a brilliant display and a memorable win.
Photo of the match
Social media highlights
Name a better #GallagherPrem comeback??? We'll wait. @ExeterChiefs looked in cruise control..... 🛳 B— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 10, 2019
AND THEN 🐾🐾 @BristolBears came back from the dead 🐻 leaving us all stunned 😳
17-0 down, to a remarkable fight back 👊 pic.twitter.com/I0Ic3aiY8v
Oh, you really do LOVE to see it 😀— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) November 10, 2019
UP THE BEARS! 🐻 pic.twitter.com/2skfvf3jeH
- White, Simmonds
- Simmonds (2)
- Yellow Cards:
- O'Conor, Thomas
- Sheedy (2)
- Sheedy (2)
- Yellow Cards: