Ellis Genge marked his Bristol homecoming with two tries as the Bears began their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a 31-29 victory over Bath at Ashton Gate.
Bath looked to be heading towards victory but a late try from Will Capon which was converted by AJ MacGinty proved to be the difference.
Following the death of the Queen on Thursday a minute’s silence was held in her honour, with the national anthem sung immediately afterward to pay tribute to the new King.
This eagerly anticipated Premiership opener was originally scheduled for Friday night but was pushed back by a day, resulting in no television match official being available.
Genge could not have hoped for a better start on his first appearance since joining from Leicester in the summer. In the first minute the England prop charged straight through a gap and, with Kyle Sinckler on his outside, dummied the final defender to finish a tremendous individual try.
Callum Sheedy added the extras but Bath began to grind their way back into the game and after a period of pressure, Piers Francis got them on the scoreboard with a penalty.
Bath were beginning to stress Bristol’s defence, and a break from their captain Ben Spencer from the base of the ruck saw the scrum-half run in unopposed from 35 metres out, Francis kicking the conversion to put Bath 10-7 ahead.
With just over 10 minutes of the first half remaining Bristol managed to build some pressure in the Bath 22. After a solid scrum their forwards took the route one approach before the ball was spread wide for Scotland international Magnus Bradbury to squeeze over in the right-hand corner on his competitive debut for the club.
Bristol then attacked from deep which put Bath under pressure and resulted in their centre Will Butt being sent to the sin bin for not rolling away at the breakdown.
Further cards ensued after Luke Morahan scored Bristol’s third try, touching down in the corner after a driving maul and good work by Sheedy and Charles Piutau. Bath’s replacements, who were warming up nearby, got involved in a melee with some Bristol players and hooker Niall Annett, an unused substitute, was red-carded by referee Matthew Carley with Sheedy sin-binned.
Francis hit another penalty for the visitors meaning Bristol turned around with just a 17-16 lead.
Bath drew first blood in the second half with prop Tom Dunn powering his way over from short range after a period of sustained pressure. Francis converted and made it a two-score game at 26-17 with another penalty.
Genge put Bristol within touching distance when he charged through three defenders to score a sensational try and set up a grandstand finish, and Capon soon scored from a well-worked driving lineout with MacGinty’s conversion putting Bristol into the lead.
Francis missed a late drop goal attempt to send the home crowd ecstatic.