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Remarkable Bath comeback trumps card-troubled Bristol at the death

By PA
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Bath ended a run of five successive derby defeats against Bristol with one of the most remarkable comebacks ever seen at The Rec after being 21-0 down inside the first 14 minutes. The winning try by Tom de Glanville came long after the clock had stopped, referee Luke Pearce having awarded the home side a precious last penalty while sending Theo Strang to the sin-bin for an early tackle.

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It was a third yellow card of the match for Bristol, who also had Siva Naulago sent off in the first half for dangerous play. Bath conceded two near-identical tries in the first six minutes, Harry Thacker scoring in either corner from catch-and-drives for Bristol. Callum Sheedy, kicking immaculately from hand and tee, landed both conversions.

Bristol, fast, hard and aggressive whether in possession or without it, continued to dominate and it was no surprise when they scored the third try, Naulago finishing expertly in the right corner. Sheedy defied the wind to make it 21-0.

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Bath skipper Josh Bayliss somehow got under the ball to deny Bristol a fourth and teenage lock Ewen Richards broke from a ruck to charge 30 metres towards the Bristol posts. Suddenly the visitors were under pressure, conceding so many penalties that Thacker was sin-binned on the half-hour.

Bath’s catch-and-drive was nowhere near as effective as their rivals but the scales shifted when Naulago was sent off on 34 minutes for a dangerous tackle, driving his shoulder into the head of Will Butt. The winger had just completed a two-week suspension for the same offence against London Irish on 11 February.

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Against 13 players, Bayliss, Ben Spencer and de Glanville were able to find space off the back of a scrum to send Semesa Rokoduguni over in the corner. Danny Cipriani’s conversion drifted across the posts. On the stroke of half-time, Sheedy edged Bristol into a 24-5 lead with a long-range penalty but it was his fault that his side was reduced to 13 men again soon after the restart. 

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The Wales fly-half slapped down a pass from Sam Underhill to Spencer and was relieved to get the benefit of the doubt on the penalty try. Bath wasted no time in taking advantage, though, scoring twice in as many minutes as Jonathan Joseph touched down in the corner and Taulupe Faletau crashed over from a short pass after a brilliant catch and break-out by de Glanville. Cipriani converted both tries and the margin was 19-24.

Replacement wing Joe Cokanasiga had a try denied by a foot in touch on the hour as Bristol’s seven-man pack struggled to win, let alone hold on to, possession. Cokanasiga was not to be denied, making sure of the bonus point in the 71st minute, but Cipriani could not convert the try.

Instead, it was Bristol who snatched back the lead through Sheedy’s 77th-minute penalty, following a breakaway by Semi Radrada, but the drama was still not quite over as de Glanville had the final say.

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