International: Bristol Bears power past South Africa ‘A’ to end winless streak

Will Porter Bristol v South Africa 'A' 2022 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy
Will Porter Bristol v South Africa 'A' 2022 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy

Bristol Bears ended a five-match winless streak when they claimed a 26-18 victory against South Africa ‘A’ in an entertaining clash at Ashton Gate on Thursday evening.

The home side, who last won a Premiership match on September 24, were full value for their triumph as they held the upper hand for long periods and were rewarded with tries from Gabriel Ibitoye and Yann Thomas, with Callum Sheedy finishing with a 16-point haul after succeeding with four penalties and two conversions.

For the visitors, Ntuthuko Mchunu and Sikhumbuzo Notshe crossed the whitewash while Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu slotted a couple of penalties and Johan Goosen added a conversion.

South Africa ‘A’ started the game well

South Africa ‘A’ had the better of the early exchanges and took the lead after three minutes, courtesy of a penalty from Feinberg-Mngomezulu after the home side were blown up for straying offside on defence.

The next 10 minutes was a tight affair as both sides battled to gain the ascendancy, but the visitors suffered a setback in the 15th minute when Jason Jenkins was yellow carded for a high tackle on Fitz Harding.

Sheedy slotted the resulting penalty to draw his side level before Feinberg-Mngomezulu put the visitors back in front with his second three-pointer off the kicking tee. That lead did not last long as Sheedy restored parity when he succeeded with his second penalty in the 25th minute.

Although the teams did plenty of running during this period, both sides’ defence was outstanding which meant there was little interesting to report on attack.

The match came alive in the 32nd minute, however, when Bristol launched an attack down the left-hand touchline inside their opponents’ 22 and Luke Morahan did brilliantly to throw an inside pass to Ibitoye, who raced away to score the opening try.

Sheedy added the extras which meant the Bears held a slender 13-6 lead at the interval.

The opening exchanges of the second half were evenly contested but South Africa ‘A’ were rewarded in the 48th minute when Mchunu gathered an inside pass from Grant Williams before crashing over for his side’s first try.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu was wayward with his conversion attempt which proved to be a crucial miss as two minutes later Sheedy landed a 48-metre penalty which put more daylight between his team and their opponents.

Bristol Bears end poor run of form

That long-range effort re-energised Bristol and on the hour-mark Thomas barged over from close quarters and Sheedy made no mistake with the conversion, which meant the home side were holding a 23-11 lead.

South Africa ‘A’ needed a response but they made a plethora of errors as they chased the game and in the 67th minute Sheedy added another penalty after an indiscretion on defence from the visitors.

That sealed the Bears’ win although Notshe crossed for a consolation try in the game’s dying moments to add some respectability to the final score.

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