Premiership: Bristol Bears strike late to floor Gloucester, London Irish ease past Newcastle Falcons

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

A late try from Toby Fricker helped Bristol Bears defeat Gloucester 29-28 in a result that dents the Cherry and Whites’ Premiership play-off hopes.

Victory for Gloucester was looking likely as the meeting entered its dying embers but Fricker’s second score on 79 minutes sent Bears fans delirious.

For the Cherry and Whites this is a major setback, however, as they missed the chance to go above Exeter Chiefs into fourth position in the standings.

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Gloucester trailed by 17 points after just 11 minutes following Bristol tries for hooker Harry Thacker and scrum-half Andy Uren, while Callum Sheedy kicked two conversions and a penalty.

But inspired by their gifted Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored one try and created another for scrum-half Charlie Chapman, the visitors added a third try through centre Chris Harris before half-time.

Fricker’s first try, converted by Sheedy, put Bristol back in front, but substitute back Sam Bedlow was then sent off for a high tackle on Gloucester fly-half Adam Hastings.

And with the home side down to 14 men, Gloucester’s replacement hooker Jack Singleton touched down, with Hastings kicking his fourth conversion.

But back came Bristol, and there was still enough time for Fricker to score and end a run of four successive Premiership defeats.

Bristol captain Steven Luatua made his first start since dislocating his wrist last month but rugby director Pat Lam was without a number of injured internationals, including Semi Radradra, Charles Piutau and Ioan Lloyd.

Gloucester boss George Skivington had no such trouble, though, naming an unchanged team after last weekend’s European Challenge Cup victory over Northampton.

Bristol, 23 points behind Gloucester before kick-off, made a flying start and were ahead after three minutes.

Sheedy went for touch, rather than kick for goal from 30 metres out, and Thacker touched down after Bristol’s forwards drove the resulting lineout over Gloucester’s line.

Sheedy’s conversion put Bristol seven points clear, before Gloucester were given even more to think about just three minutes later when Luatua broke clear and delivered a superbly-timed pass that Uren collected before touching down.

Sheedy converted and then landed a penalty from in front of the posts, and it all represented a horror opening for Gloucester as they trailed 17-0.

Gloucester desperately needed a spark from somewhere, and it arrived right on cue through the blistering attacking threat of Rees-Zammit.

The visitors freed their main strike-runner after solid approach play, and although he was stopped just short of the line, Rees-Zammit flicked a pass to Chapman, who claimed the try and Hastings converted.

Rees-Zammit was at it again just nine minutes later, except this time he scored himself after cutting a devastating midfield angle that took him clear of Bristol’s defence.

Hastings’ conversion narrowed the gap to three points, and Gloucester were firmly back in contention.

Their scoring blitz continued through a third touchdown in 13 minutes, with Harris the beneficiary, and another Hastings conversion suddenly meant that Bristol were on the back foot.

Both sides continued to put an emphasis on attack, and a relentless opening 40 minutes ended with Gloucester leading 21-17, yet only after Thacker had a try disallowed when he knocked on.

Bristol began the second half by generating a steady stream of possession, yet they failed to capitalise as Uren was held up over Gloucester’s line after appearing to do all the hard work.

It proved a scoreless third quarter, and Gloucester regained the ascendancy in terms of territory 15 minutes from time after Luatua limped off.

A game full of twist and turns, though, saw Gloucester lock Freddie Clarke sin-binned by referee Ian Tempest for a deliberate knock-on and Bristol struck immediately when Fricker burst through a huge gap to score, and Sheedy converted.

Bedlow, though, departed just three minutes later, and Bristol found themselves under considerable pressure inside the final 10 minutes, with Singleton striking, but Fricker had the final say.

London Irish ease to victory at Newcastle Falcons

Elsewhere, London Irish recorded a first win in five games as they beat Newcastle Falcons 42-14 at Kingston Park on Friday.

A bonus point was secured inside the opening half thanks to the inspired Paddy Jackson, who was flawless with the boot as he dictated the tempo and play, and tries from Kyle Rowe, Albert Tuisue, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hassell-Collins.

Sean Robinson and Ben Stevenson kept the Falcons in it up to that point but further scores from Curtis Rona and Matt Cornish put the game to bed before the late dismissals of Newcastle’s Gary Graham and Irish replacement Facundo Gigena.

The visitors took the lead on 15 minutes when Rowe was able to go over in the corner after Newcastle were offside close to their own line. The ball was played out to the right and Rowe scored before Jackson added the conversion.

That lead lasted barely three minutes as Robinson spotted a gap and ploughed his way over the try line underneath the posts.

The Falcons try-scorer was soon in the sin bin and from the resulting penalty, Irish were able to regain the lead with Tuisue diving over and Jackson again kicking the extra two points.

The visitors got their third try of the game on 29 minutes as Creevy burrowed his way over from a rolling maul and Jackson continued his fine kicking as he again converted from tight to the touchline to establish a 21-7 lead.

The bonus point was secured in the 38th minute as Hassell-Collins had space to go over in the corner after a succession of penalties five metres out for the away side sucked in the Newcastle defence from the scrum.

Stevenson went over with the clock in the red at the end of the half to give Newcastle hope in the second half, with Joel Hodgson adding the extras to make it 28-14 at the break.

The Falcons started the second in the ascendancy, pinning Irish back in their own 22 for the opening 10 minutes of the half, but were unable to get themselves over the line.

London Irish extended their lead on 61 minutes as Rona powered his way over the line from close range following a quick tap penalty from a scrum. The imperious Jackson was on target again with the conversion.

Irish added another try through Cornish, who gathered a superb cross-field kick from Jackson and beat the tackle to roll over in the corner with Jackson converting.

The game finished 14-a-side as Gigena and Graham both were sent off by referee Carl Dickson who, after consulting replays, decided they both warranted reds for putting their heads together on 77 minutes.

It was a drab end to a fine evening for Irish who dominated throughout and keep their play-off hopes alive thanks to the five points they bring back to London.

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: Munster, Edinburgh and Stormers pick up key wins

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