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Match Report

Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter reports from

Posted Sunday, December 15th 2019

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Report: Stade Francais 16-18 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears left it late to maintain their 100% record in the European Challenge Cup, as Harry Thacker’s 78th-minute try sealed a memorable victory over Stade Francais at Stade Jean-Bouin on Saturday night.

The replacement burrowed his way to the line from close range, leaving Callum Sheedy with the simplest of conversions, as Pat Lam’s men finally made their second half dominance pay with the game’s decisive try 90 seconds from time.

Bristol trailed by two at half time, despite Will Capon’s score on 28 minutes and a yellow card to Pablo Matera, as Waisea Vuidarvuwalu’s try and a Nicolas Sanchez penalty put Stade in front.

Sanchez and Callum Sheedy traded penalties early in the second period, before replacement fly half Joris Segonds stepped up to kick the hosts into a five-point lead heading into the final quarter.

The Bears hammered away at a resolute Stade defence and looked to be leaving Paris with just a consolation losing bonus point.

But after Ed Holmes’ had carried them within two metres, Thacker dived over to level the scores and Sheedy's conversion sealed the points, to leave Bristol just one point from a second successive European quarter final.

What happened?

In an error-strewn opening quarter, Bristol were afforded two early let offs, with Adrien Lapegue’s third-minute try chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up, and Nicolas Sanchez’s long-range penalty fading wide of the uprights on 16 minutes.

After weathering an early storm, Bristol began to hit their stride and took the lead courtesy of Callum Sheedy’s penalty after the hosts were penalised at the breakdown.

Stade grabbed the evening’s opening try when Waisea Vuidarvuwalu powered through a tackle in midfield to touch down, with Sanchez adding the conversion.

Straight from the restart came one of the game’s major talking points, with Pablo Matera shown only a yellow card by referee Andrea Piardi, despite his elbow appearing to make contact with the head of Toby Fricker.

The Bears’ temporary numerical advantage paid immediate dividends as Capon touched down from the resulting driving lineout.

But it was Stade who had the final say of the half with a Sanchez penalty to lead 10-8 at the interval.

The Argentinian landed his second penalty three minutes after the interval to extend the hosts’ lead further, but after a devastating break from Nathan Hughes, Sheedy cancelled out his opposite number to make it 13-11. 

The number tens continued to trade blows, but Sanchez’s penalty, immediately from the restart, couldn’t find its target.

Protheroe’s dazzling break from deep in his own half sparked the Bears back into life approaching the hour mark, before replacement Joris Segonds’ penalty surged Stade into a five-point lead with 20 minutes left to play.

Bristol were now dominating possession and territory and set up camp in the Stade 22, as first Alapati Leiua and then Nathan Hughes came close to landing the decisive blow late on.

But after Holmes’ short-range bust had opened the gate, with penalty advantage being played, Thacker picked up from the base to send the travelling Bristol fans into ecstasy on an extraordinary night in the French capital.

Teams and scorers:

Stade Francais: Tui, Naivalu, Nayacalevua, Arrate, Lapegue, Sanchez, Hall; Mavinga, Latu, Melikidze, Pyle, De Giovanni, Matera, Chapuis, Francoz.
Replacements: Panis, Futeu, Alo-Emile, Maestri, Macalou, Coville, Segonds, Danty.

Bristol Bears: Protheroe (Lloyd 71); Fricker, O’Conor, Bedlow (Morahan 66), Leiua; Sheedy, Stirzaker (Uren 59); Woolmore (Lay 75), Capon (Thacker 51), Lahiff (N Thomas 68), Holmes, Joyce, Vui (c), Heenan (Hamilton 59), Hughes.

Replacements: Thacker, Ja Lay, Thomas, Hawkins, Hamilton, Uren, Lloyd, Fricker.

Stade Francais: Tries: Vuidarvuwalu 25. Cons: Sanchez 25. Pens: Sanchez 32, 44, Segonds 59. Yellow: Matera 27

Bristol Bears: Tries: Capon 28, Thacker 78. Cons: Sheedy 78. Pens: Sheedy 22, 47

Key moment:

Only one real candidate here - the winner.

Bristol had piled the pressure on Stade in the second half but were met head on by a physical defensive unit. 

But after Ed Holmes had taken Bristol within two metres, Harry Thacker struck to leave Sheedy the simplest of conversions for the win.

Pat Lam reaction:

Man of the match: Toby Fricker

Toby Fricker has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Bristol Bears colours, and the wing continued his impressive form in this competition with another eye-catching display in Paris.

The former Ebbw Vale man was physical in defence and attack, carrying with power and determination as Bristol came from behind to earn a memorable win on Saturday night.

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Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards:
  • KO: 12AM
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