A brave display from Bristol United saw the Wanderers suffer a shock 31-27 Aviva ‘A’ League defeat at Franklin’s Gardens on Monday night.
Teimana Harrison’s second-half double looked set to give a strong home team the win, but a late score from replacement Elias Caven handed the spoils to the away side.
It was a spirited display from the men in red, who celebrated with real fervour at the final whistle.
Bristol had gone in at half-time 21-13 up as three tries put them in the ascendancy after Howard Packman’s early score.
But the Wanderers fought back, with Harrison making the most of two sin-binnings to touch down from unstoppable lineout drives.
And it looked like the men in green, black and gold would secure the win until Caven finished off a late breakaway to earn the victory.
The Wanderers went into the game expecting a positive result with a strong team, including the likes of Jamie Elliott and Phil Dowson, taking to the field.
And it looked good early on as Tom Stephenson’s trademark sidestepping started a slick move that ended in a Dom Waldouck grubber kick finding Packman out wide.
The speedy wing simply rolled over the line and dotted down, with Will Hooley adding the extras from the left touchline.
Confidence levels were high in the home ranks and it looked like a matter of time before a second try would come.
But Bristol fought back and after Hooley knocked on, they used a scrum in the Wanderers 22 to good effect, with flanker Nick Koster crashing over from close range.
Centre Mark Cooke levelled the scores with the conversion, but Hooley’s penalty quickly put the Wanderers back in front.
Bristol were far from overawed though, and they were showing a ruthless streak, scoring a second try from as many visits to the Wanderers 22.
This time, Olly Robinson was the man touching down as the flanker used his power to go over in the corner. Cooke converted with the help of the crossbar.
Tom Collins did his best to wrest back momentum, adding tempo from full-back, and Hooley was handed the chance to land another penalty, which he did.
But again Bristol profited from some slackness in the home half, with Jack Tovey intercepting to claim a third try for the away side in just 28 minutes.
Referee Andrew Rawson was riling the home fans with his refusal to allow advantage and his scrum calls were not to the liking of the Tetley’s Stand faithful.
Bristol were using the possession well and Waldouck was forced to make a superb saving tackle as wing Luke Baldwin charged towards the line.
Packman also intervened near his own line soon after, getting to the ball first after Hooley had been unable to gather a high ball under pressure.
Cooke missed the chance to extend Bristol’s lead before the break, failing with a penalty attempt from distance, but the away side had applied themselves well in the first period.
The Wanderers needed to strike back early in the second half, and that they did.
Bristol were reduced to 14 men as lock Glen Townson was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on and the Wanderers made the most of their extra man as Harrison used a lineout drive to score.
Replacement fly-half Harry Mallinder added the extras and the gap was down to just a single point.
And the Wanderers had the chance to go in front soon after as good work at the breakdown presented Mallinder with a penalty chance.
But the youngster passed up the opportunity and Bristol were buoyed, scrapping to get back on the front foot.
An impressive burst from wing Charlie Amesbury gave them territory, but a knock-on from centre Luke Eves ended what was a promising spell of pressure.
Bristol did soon have another three points to their names though, as Cooke slotted an easy penalty from in front of the posts.
However, yellow peril soon struck the men in red again as loosehead prop Ellis Genge was sent to the bin.
And just as he had before, Harrison made them pay from the resulting lineout drive, powering over to drag his side into the lead.
Mallinder landed the conversion from out wide and the Wanderers were ahead for the first time since the 15th minute.
But, as they had done all night, Bristol showed huge desire, getting their noses back in front in bizarre circumstances.
Amesbury broke down the right, threw the inside pass, Eves volleyed the ball forward and Caven kicked ahead and scored.
Cooke converted to put the away side four points up once more and try as they might, the Wanderers could not get over the line again as Bristol claimed a valiant victory.
Wanderers: Collins; Elliott (Hutchinson 40), Waldouck, Stephenson, Packman; Hooley, (Mallinder 40), Hodgson (A Day 55); E Waller (Hobbs-Awoyemi 40), McMillan (Williams 40), Mercey (Parkins 60); Woolford, Onojaife; Harrison, Nutley (Dolan 50), Dowson (c) (Ludlam (63).
Bristol United: Wallace; Tovey (Caven 70), Eves, Cooke, Amesbury; Sheedy (Carpenter 58), Baldwin (Turner 74); Genge, Lloyd, Brooker (Lawrence 50); O’Connell; Joyce, Townson; Koster (Stephenson 50), Robinson, Skirving.
Referee: Andrew Rawson