London Irish emerge victorious to end Bristol's winning streak
Australia international scrum-half Nick Phipps scored two tries as London Irish crushed Bristol 49-32.
It brought to an abrupt end Bristol’s run of four bonus-point victories and leaves the West Country side with a mountain to climb if they are to reach the end-of-season play-offs.
To complete a miserable night for the home side, wing Siva Naulago was sent off in the 59th minute for a head-high challenge.
The impressive Benhard Janse Van Rensburg, Ben Loader, Paddy Jackson and Tom Pearson were the other Irish try-scorers, with Jackson adding three penalties and five conversions.
Tom Whiteley, Naulago, Theo Strang, Ashley Challenger and Jake Kerr scored Bristol’s tries, with their last three coming in quick succession in the closing stages, while Whiteley also kicked a penalty and a conversion and Tiff Eden split the posts for two points.
A penalty from Whiteley gave Bristol a third-minute lead, but Jackson responded with one for Irish five minutes later.
Bears then picked up the first try. A poor kick from Jackson gave the hosts a platform in the Irish half, which allowed Whiteley to dart around the blind side before feeding Harry Thacker.
The hooker made ground down the right flank before being tackled, but an alert Whiteley was on hand to sneak over.
Whiteley missed the conversion, but Bristol still led 8-3 at the end of an evenly-contested first quarter.
Irish turned down opportunities to kick a second penalty as they opted for attacking line-outs and were rewarded with their first try.
A strong burst from centre Van Rensburg saw him brought down inches from the line, but captain Phipps was up in support to score.
Irish appeared to be increasing their influence on the match, but it was Bristol who scored next with a breakaway try.
Irish lost possession 25 metres out from the opposition line. Whiteley seized the loose ball and an excellent offload sent Alapati Leiua away on a 45-metre run. The wing was hauled down, but swift passing resulted in Naulago crossing in the opposite corner.
Worse was to follow for Irish when hooker Agustin Creevy was yellow-carded for denying Bristol a try-scoring opportunity.
Irish trailed 15-10 at the interval but, in Creevy’s absence, they reduced the deficit with a second penalty from Jackson.
Creevy returned in time to see his side regain the lead. An elusive run from Loader saw him evade a number of defenders to create the opportunity for Van Rensburg to force his way over in the corner.
Moments later Van Rensburg turned creator as his strong run carved the home side apart for Phipps to score his second try.
Naulago was then red-carded before Loader scored the bonus-point try, with Jackson soon adding a fifth
Whiteley was helped off with a leg injury before Jackson hammered over a long-range penalty and converted a try from Pearson for a final tally of 19 points.
Bristol had been well beaten, but three late tries from replacements Strang, Challenger and Kerr secured a try-scoring bonus point and a far more respectable scoreline than seemed likely.
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