- Gallagher Premiership
- Sunday, February 21st 2021
- Brentford Community Stadium
Will Carpenter reports from Brentford Community Stadium
Report: London Irish 34-34 Bristol Bears
Sunday, February 21st 2021
Bristol Bears squandered an 18-point half-time lead to draw a thrilling Gallagher Premiership clash with London Irish at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Pat Lam’s men led 13-31 at the break, despite Sam Bedlow’s yellow card, thanks to Siva Naulago’s double, Piers O’Conor’s opener and a fourth try from Chris Vui.
But Steve Mafi touched down on the stroke of half time to drag Irish back into the contest, before the home side cashed in after the break.
Ben Loader and Mitch Eadie both saw yellow early in the second half, before Irish stormed back with tries from Brophy Clews, Phipps and Parton. Jackson’s three conversions levelled the scores with 90 seconds remaining.
There still time for Irish to almost snatch a dramatic victory, only for Phipps to knock-on the loose ball with the line at his mercy.
An all-action first half began with a yellow card for Sam Bedlow for a dangerous tackle on Theo Brophy Clews. Paddy Jackson knocked over the subsequent penalty before a Bears lightning strike put the visitors in full control.
After suffering at the hands of two interceptions at Kingsholm last week, the Bears turned the tables in Brentford with two of their own. Piutau picked off Stokes’ pass in midfield before linking up with Uren and then O’Conor for the game’s opening score, before Naulago nipped in and raced away for a second in as many minutes.
The sublime Charles Piutau was enjoying himself on a dry track and his offload to Vui laid the foundations for Sheedy’s first penalty of the afternoon to extend the visitor’s lead.
Jackson pulled a three-pointer back for the hosts, before Vui crossed for Lam’s rampant side after Sheedy had caught Irish napping with a quickly taken penalty.
The bonus-point arrived four minutes before half time as Piutau and Naulago combined to devastating effect once again, while Bedlow was denied a fifth two minutes later, with the TMO ruling it out for a knock-on from Vui in the build-up.
It was Irish who had the final say of the half with a powerful score from Steve Mafi – and after Loader and Eadie were sent to the sin bin, Sheedy’s kicked the Bears into a 21-point lead.
But Brophy Clews went over out wide after neat work from O’Brien and then Phipps darted over from close range to make it a one-score game.
With time ticking away, Parton found space in the right-hand corner and Jackson’s kick completed an astonishing comeback for an Irish side that had looked dead and buried.
Then, with the clock in the red, Parton broke clear on the opposite wing only for his inside pass to evade Hepetema and slip away from Phipps, to bring an action-packed afternoon to a close.
London Irish: Stokes; Loader, Rona, Brophy Clews, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Meehan; Goodrick-Clarke, Cornish, Chawatama, Mafi, Nott, Rogerson (c), Cowan, Tuisue.
Replacements: Creevy, Dell, Hoskins, Munga, O'Brien, Phipps, Hepetema, Parton.
Bristol: C Piutau (Lloyd 57); Morahan, O'Conor, Bedlow (Leiua 69), Naulago; Sheedy, Uren; Y Thomas (Woolmore 55), Capon (Kloska 66), Afoa (Armstrong 40), Holmes, Vui, Luatua (c) (Heenan 60), D Thomas, Eadie.
Replacements: Kloska, Woolmore, Armstrong, Hawkins, Heenan, Kessell, Lloyd, Leiua
London Irish: Tries: Mafi 39, Brophy Clews 65, Phipps 69, Parton 77 Cons: Jackson 39, 65, 69, 77. Pens: Jackson 4, 27. Yellow: Loader 58
Bristol Bears: Tries: O’Conor 8, Naulago 10, 36, Vui 34. Cons: Sheedy 8, 10, 34. Pens: Sheedy 14, 59. Yellow: Bedlow 4, Eadie 61
After a second Bears yellow card of the afternoon to Mitch Eadie, Irish stormed back into the match with three tries in 12 minutes, the last of which, to Tom Parton, gave Jackson the opportunity to level the scores, which he successfully did.
Pat Lam reaction
Man of the match: Siva Naulago
- Brophy-Clews, Mafi, Phipps, Parton
- Jackson (4)
- Jackson (2)
- Yellow Cards:
- O'Conor, Naulago (2), Vui
- Sheedy (4)
- Sheedy (2)
- Yellow Cards:
- Bedlow, Eadie