More frustration for Saints as they are hit by Bristol fightback

Saints surrendered a 14-0 lead as they suffered a second disappointing home defeat on the spin.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 16th February 2020, 4:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 16th February 2020, 7:23 pm
Harry Mallinder opened the scoring for Saints
Harry Mallinder opened the scoring for Saints

The black, green and gold were in control against Bristol, but the second half was a shocker for the hosts as the Bears bounced back to grab a 20-14 Gallagher Premiership win.

It was more misery for Saints, who had lost their previous game, to London Irish, little more than three weeks earlier at Franklin's Gardens.

They had been desperate to ensure that was just a minor blip, and it looked like they would when Harry Mallinder's try and three James Grayson penalties gave them a healthy lead.

Rory Hutchinson was in action

However, Bristol, who had previously made an abundance of handling errors, kept plugging away and Rory Hutchinson's yellow card for a high tackle proved costly.

Callum Sheedy kicked the resulting penalty and Bristol scored just before Hutchinson returned to the field, through Henry Purdy.

It was two tries in two minutes when Lewis Thiede muscled his way over, and Sheedy converted to put his team three points up.

Saints huffed and puffed but they could not blow the Bristol door down in the closing stages and Ian Madigan landed a penalty with the final kick of the game as the away side celebrated a crucial win.

Teimana Harrison carried the fight on his 150th Saints appearance

Bristol had enjoyed all of the early possession at the Gardens, putting pressure on Saints, who responded well and started to grow into the game.

Teimana Harrison, who had led the team out on his 150th appearance, was at the forefront, carrying hard and wrestling with two players before producing a superb offload. It allowed Hutchinson to do what he does best, delivering an assist for Mallinder out wide.

Grayson missed the conversion in windy conditions from the touchline, and Saints suffered an injury blow as Alex Moon was forced off, bringing Lewis Bean into the action.

But Saints retained their appetite, swarming all over Bristol and earning a penalty, which Grayson kicked with ease.

Bristol were now on the back foot, with Saints using all of their weapons to try to break the white wall down again.

Another penalty was earned, allowing Grayson to make it 11-0 12 minutes before the break.

Bristol finally tried to turn the screw as the clock ticked down to half-time, but Saints slowed the ball down well and eventually won the penalty to relieve the pressure.

Sam Bedlow was soon back at the door as the ball went back into the Bears' hands, but Hutchinson stood tall to force the knock on.

Saints were able to hold out until the break and they were soon on the front foot in the second period, pushing Bristol back and earning a penalty, which Grayson kicked.

But Saints started to let the game get scrappy and Bristol got a foothold, flying forward and forcing Hutchinson into a high tackle on Joe Joyce directly in front of the posts.

Hutchinson was yellow carded and fly-half Sheedy kicked the penalty to get his team on the board for the first time after 50 minutes.

Both sides were making errors during a scrappy start to the second half, but that suited Saints more as they still held an 11-point lead.

However, with Hutchinson just about to come back on, Bristol scored, breaking rapidly and opening up space for replacement wing Purdy to score in the corner.

Sheedy converted superbly from out wide, and he was on target again almost immediately as prop Thiede powered over to put Bristol ahead.

Saints had gone from 14-0 up to 17-14 down and they had 15 minutes to salvage a game that had left their clutches in the blink of an eye.

Mallinder went close to going over out wide but he knocked on under real pressure and the home fans were trying to do their bit to breathe new life into their team.

But Bristol were defending extremely well, closing down the space and snuffing out threats such as Taqele Naiyaravoro and Hutchinson.

Saints had one final chance with a couple of minutes to go, but the Bears were ferocious in their tackling, forcing the hosts to cough up the ball.

And Bristol won a scrum on the edge of Saints 22, winning a penalty to allow Madigan to finish the job in style.

Saints: Mallinder; Collins (Tuala 62), Proctor (Dingwall 62), Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Reinach (Mitchell 62); A Waller (cc) (B Franks 65), Haywood (Fish 65), O Franks (Painter 57 (O Franks 60)); Coles, Moon (Bean 8); Eadie (Onojaife 75), Wood, Harrison (cc).

Bristol Bears: C Piutau; Morahan, O'Conor, Bedlow, Leiua (Purdy 40); Sheedy (Madigan 75), Randall (Uren 62); Woolmore (Y Thomas 70), Malton (Capon 43), Afoa (Thiede 62); Attwood, Vui; Luatua (c) (Joyce 40), D Thomas, Hughes (Heenan 70).

Referee: Tom Foley