- European Rugby Challenge Cup
- Saturday, January 18th 2020
- Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Will Carpenter reports from Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Report: Zebre 7-7 Bristol Bears
Saturday, January 18th 2020
Harry Randall’s converted try with the final play of the game snatched a dramatic draw for Bristol Bears in a European Challenge Cup mud bath at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday.
Pat Lam’s side trailed heading into the closing stages, after Jimmy Tuivaiti’s breakaway try late in the first half, following swathes of Bristol possession, had given the hosts a 7-0 lead.
Callum Sheedy was also sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on in the lead up, leaving his side with an uphill battle after the break.
But the 64th-minute sending off of Johan Meyer for a high tackle granted Bristol an opening, and the visitors used every available second to earn a vital draw on the road.
With penalty advantage being played, Randall sniped and dummied through the Zebre defence to touch down, with Sheedy’s simple conversion ensuring it finished all square in Italy.
In sodden conditions in Parma, Bristol dominated the opening exchanges and after 20 minutes had enjoyed 84% possession.
But it was without reward for Lam’s men, and after weathering an early storm, Zebre fought their way back into the game, with Bisegni’s scything break through the midfield, finally allowing them to exit their 22.
With the hosts now gaining a foothold, Tuivaiti powered over from close range to open the scoring against the run of play, with co-captain Sheedy shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in the lead up.
Bristol were given a let off early in the second half when Canna’s penalty drifted wide of the uprights from 40 metres. And they were soon granted a huge opportunity on 64 minutes, when Johan Meyer, the Zebre openside, was shown a red card for a high tackle, leaving the visitors to play against 14 men for the remainder of the game.
The Bears huffed and puffed as time ticked away, but when a five-metre lineout was spilt with less than two minutes remaining, the game looked to have slipped out of their grasp.
But after forcing a vital turnover, the Bristol maul drove towards the Zebre line – and with penalty advantage in the bag, Randall broke from the base to finish under the posts, with Sheedy’s conversion maintaining his side’s unbeaten record in the competition.
It means Bristol have secured a top two seed for the knockout stages, with their quarter final opponents still to be confirmed.
Teams and scorers:
Bristol Bears: Protheroe (Purdy 61); Morahan, Leiua, Madigan, Fricker; Sheedy (cc), Uren (Randall 56); Woolmore, Capon (Thacker 52), Thiede (N Thomas 72), Holmes, Joyce, Hamilton, Heenan (cc), Hughes (Luatua 33 (Dawe 78)).
Replacements: Thacker, Dawe, N Thomas, Hawkins, Luatua, Randall, Purdy, Pincus.
Zebre: Laloifi, Balekana, Bisegni (c), Boni, Bellini, Canna, Violi; Lovotti, Bigi, Zilocchi, Sisi, Nagle, Licata, Meyer, Tuivaiti.
Replacements: Fabiani, Fischetti, Bello, Kearney, Giammarioli, Renton, Padovani, Biagi.
Zebre: Tries: Tuivaiti 37. Cons: Canna 37. Red: Meyer 64
Bristol Bears: Tries: Randall 79. Cons: Sheedy 79. Yellow: Sheedy 37
Trailing 7-0 after Tuivaiti's first-half try, Bristol found themselves camped in and around the halfway line, as a stubborn Zenre defence repelled their attack.
But after consulting the TMO, referee Thomas Charabas issued a red card to Zebre's Johan Meyer for a high tackle, granting a huge opening for the visitors.
And it paid off, with Randall's last-gasp try snatching a draw with the final play of the game.
Pat Lam reaction:
Man of the match: Jake Heenan
An inspired and industrious display from the co-captain, who put in a huge shift in the back row in tough conditions.
Heenan led from the front as Bristol snatched a dramatic draw thanks to Harry Randall's 79th-minute try.
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