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Bristol produce a rousing finale to leave Scarlets shell shocked

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Bristol ended their Heineken Champions Cup pool phase campaign with a 52-21 bonus-point victory over the Scarlets in Llanelli. Pat Lam’s team had already qualified for the tournament’s round of 16 in April, and a rousing finale that saw them score three tries in six minutes left Scarlets shell shocked.

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The Bears moved third in Pool B, although they will be overhauled by Munster if the Irish side defeat Wasps on Sunday and claim a bonus point. Centres Semi Radradra and Ioan Lloyd scored early Bristol tries, yet it was not until the final quarter that they cut loose. 

A penalty try was followed by a rapid scoring burst with Harry Thacker, Piers O’Conor and Ratu Naulago all touching down before Radrarda scored again. Fly-half Callum Sheedy also claimed a try and added five conversions. It all added up to a spectacular blitz of 31 points after the home side had levelled things up at 21-21.

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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – a Lion and Wasp

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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – a Lion and Wasp

The Scarlets had their moments through tries from hooker Ryan Elias and full-back Johnny McNicholl, with Rhys Patchell booting three penalties and a conversion, but their European Cup campaign is over for another season. The Welsh region showed a number of changes following a comprehensive defeat against Bordeaux-Begles last time out.

Patchell and Dane Blacker forged a new half-back pairing, wing Ryan Conbeer replaced Steff Evans, flanker Shaun Evans made his European debut and Carwyn Tuipulotu started at number eight. Bristol had a quartet of switches following their win over Stade Francais, including a first start since May last year for hooker Bryan Byrne, with Charles Piutau returning at full-back and Lloyd moving from wing to centre.

The Scarlets played just their third game since late October following players quarantining in South Africa – where they had travelled to play two United Rugby Championship games – and on their return home, before seeing games postponed either side of Christmas. They made a strong start, taking a seventh-minute lead through Patchell’s angled penalty, only to be ripped open in midfield by Lloyd’s brilliant break.

He did not require a second invitation to attack Scarlets’ defensive line and he caused sufficient damage to send an unmarked Radradra over for a try that Sheedy converted. Lloyd, who missed out on a place in Wales’ Six Nations squad, was at it again six minutes later, this time scoring himself after collecting flanker Chris Vui’s exquisite offload, and Sheedy’s conversion opened up an 11-point advantage.

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Any thoughts of Bristol being in cruise control were soon dismissed, however, as Scarlets hit back through an Elias try that Patchell converted before a sweeping move that heavily featured skipper Jonathan Davies almost resulted in another score.

Patchell’s second successful penalty reduced the arrears to 14-13 before Lloyd’s thrilling contribution came to an early end when he was forced off injured and O’Conor replaced him. Bristol came under sustained pressure before the break, but they managed to prevent the Scarlets from making further in-roads and maintained a one-point lead.

Patchell completed a penalty hat-trick just three minutes into the second period, but Bristol wiped out the deficit when scrum-half Harry Randall took a quick penalty. Prop Kyle Sinckler then barged over the line, but replays showed he had been held up by Scarlets flanker Sione Kalamafoni, and the home side remained ahead.

Bristol, though, were soon back in front and the Scarlets temporarily down to 14 men when referee Mathieu Raynal awarded them a penalty try after Elias appeared to knock the ball out of Randall’s grasp from close range.

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Elias was yellow-carded as a result, yet the Scarlets responded brilliantly as Conbeer ran strongly into Bristol’s half before sending McNicholl over for a high-class score that made it 21-21 entering the final quarter.

Bristol went back in front just four minutes later when Thacker surged clear to touch down, and Sheedy’s conversion put them seven points clear before a dazzling finish left the Scarlets chasing shadows.

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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