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Bristol win a thriller to dent Gloucester's play-off hopes

By PA

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Gloucester’s Gallagher Premiership play-off hopes suffered a setback after Bristol beat them 29-28 in a thrilling west country derby at Ashton Gate.

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Barely 24 hours after Gloucester were awarded a bonus-point win from their cancelled match against Worcester last month, it looked as though they would climb above Exeter into fourth spot.

But Bristol wing Toby Fricker’s 79th-minute try – his second touchdown of the game – secured a dramatic bonus-point triumph for the hosts.

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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.

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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.

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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
Press Association

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.

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