Kyle Sinckler inspires Bristol to comeback bonus-point victory at Bath
Kyle Sinckler reacted to missing out on British and Irish Lions selection by delivering a dominant display as Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol beat Bath 40-20 at the Recreation Ground. Bristol and England prop Sinckler was among several high-profile players overlooked by Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches for the Lions’ South Africa tour this summer.
But Sinckler responded to that setback with a man-of-the-match performance just 48 hours after discovering he had not made Gatland’s 37-man cut. Sinckler and his fellow forwards headlined the west country derby as Bristol confirmed a play-off place by fighting back from 15-0 adrift to triumph in bonus-point fashion.
Number eight Nathan Hughes and wing Max Malins scored either side of half-time, while there was also a penalty try, a further score from Malins and touchdowns for full-back Charles Piutau and flanker Ben Earl, with three conversions by fly-half Callum Sheedy and one by Ioan Lloyd.
Bath established a healthy lead through tries from Lions wing Anthony Watson, who finished with a double, and replacement fly-half Rhys Priestland, while Ben Spencer kicked a conversion and penalty – but they had no answer to Bristol’s relentless scrum power. And a miserable second half for Bath was completed when hooker Tom Dunn received a late red card.
Dunn, who was dismissed for a high shoulder-led hit to Bristol centre Semi Radradra’s head, is now facing a second ban of the season following his sending-off against London Irish in March. Full-back Tom de Glanville returned after injury for Bath, with Watson moving to the wing, and other changes included starts for centre Max Clark and lock Elliott Stooke.
“Do the tough stuff, get on with, it, use that anger…"
– Rejected Lions prop Kyle Sinckler wore his heart on his sleeve when he was interviewed on BT Sport following his man of the match display for Bristol at Bath??#BATvBRI #LionsRugby #Lions2021
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 8, 2021
Sinckler, meanwhile, lined up in a Bristol team that saw his fellow England international Malins moved to the wing and star centre Radradra back from injury. Radradra was heavily involved in the early action as Bristol established a territorial foothold and he sparked a brilliant move that led to Malins touching down, but the Fijian’s pass that sent wing Luke Morahan clear was correctly ruled forward by referee Luke Pearce.
And Bath then struck against the run of play, with Watson winning the race following his own kick into Bristol’s 22-metre line and claiming a 12th-minute opener. If Bristol were rocked by that score, then worse to follow just two minutes later after Sheedy’s pass was intercepted by Bath replacement Priestland and the Wales international crossed unopposed.
Spencer’s conversion made it 12-0 and he extended Bath’s lead through a 30th-minute penalty as the home side put a hesitant opening well and truly behind them. Bristol knew they needed to open their account before half-time and they finally breached Bath’s defence when they drove a close-range line-out and Hughes touched down, with Sheedy converting.
The visitors thought they had a second try six minutes after the restart, but Morahan knocked on following a sweeping move and Sheedy’s cross-kick to an unmarked Hughes counted for nothing. Bristol were rebuilding momentum, though, and they cut the deficit when Pearce awarded them a penalty try after Bath’s scrum went backwards and home prop Juan Schoeman was sin-binned.
Bristol then sacrificed a kickable penalty, opting for a scrum instead, and it had the desired effect as slick passing creating enough space for Malins to score. Then Piutau crossed to secure a maximum points haul, ensuring a play-off spot for Pat Lam’s team with four games of the regular league season remaining.
Watson scored his second try 13 minutes from time with some impressive finishing, but Earl and Malins had the final words after Dunn departed as Bristol racked up their highest points total on Bath soil.
The @BristolBears train going full steam ahead ?
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 8, 2021
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