Premiership: Bristol Bears run rampant as they thrash play-off chasing Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate
Bristol Bears easily produced their best performance of the season to stun title challengers Northampton Saints with an incredible 62-8 victory on Friday.
Pat Lam’s men were magnificent throughout and, despite a slow start, had the bonus-point wrapped up by the break.
Charles Piutau was in particularly outstanding form, and his two assists – for Harry Randall and Ioan Lloyd – enabled them to go 27-3 in front at the break.
Randall scored another while Harry Thacker also went over, leaving the Saints with plenty to do after the interval.
They ultimately had no answer as Bristol continued to dominate, with Lloyd completing his brace and Chris Vui also touching down.
George Hendy’s try did give Northampton some consolation, but the Bears did not relent, and George Kloska, Fitz Harding and Jake Heenan completed their biggest-ever Premiership triumph.
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Northampton were without a number of players due to injuries and England training commitments, but their capitulation was startling on a night that saw them outplayed in every key department on the way to a club-record Premiership loss.
But Bristol, despite suffering a run of eight league games without a win earlier this term, now find themselves chasing a play-off spot.
A five-game run-in begins at home to Harlequins next weekend and, with confidence levels soaring, a concerted semi-final push looks likely.
Saints were immediately on the front foot, with wing Tom Collins sparking a thrilling counter-attack that stretched Bristol’s defence before Smith opened Northampton’s account through an eighth-minute penalty.
Even though AJ MacGinty kicked an equalising three-pointer four minutes later, Bristol found themselves dominated in terms of territory and possession.
But just when they required a flash of inspiration, it arrived in the form of England international Randall, who sprinted over from 20 metres out after wrong-footing Saints’ defence.
Bristol thought they had scored again from the restart when number eight Magnus Bradbury sent Thacker clear, only for him to find the unmarked Siva Naulago with a forward pass.
Northampton were in reverse gear, though, and Bristol punished them again through a close-range Thacker try that MacGinty converted, opening up a 17-3 lead.
Bristol’s attacking game had found full throttle, which was underlined seven minutes before half-time when Northampton had no answer to the brilliance of full-back Piutau.
Piutau spun his way out of a tackle just inside Bristol’s half, then tormented Northampton defenders on a weaving run before kicking towards the corner, and Randall gathered a kind bounce to collect a second try.
Piutau was well and truly in the mood to cause havoc, and Bristol collected a bonus-point try following another destructive break that ended with a one-handed pass to Lloyd, whose strong finish made it 27-3 at the break.
Bristol had no intention of sitting on their sizeable lead, and Northampton’s defence was opened up again five minutes into the second period when Randall and Piutau combined to create a second try for Lloyd.
It was now nothing more than a damage-limitation exercise for Northampton, yet Vui’s opportunist try, converted by MacGinty, took Bristol past 40 points with almost 30 minutes remaining.
Hendy grabbed a Northampton consolation score, but Bristol continued to pick Saints off with ease as Kloska rounded off a concerted spell of pressure with try number seven, and then Harding and Heenan completed the rout.
READ MORE: WATCH: Charles Piutau sets up Harry Randall try with RIDICULOUS piece of skill
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