Captain Steven Luatua inspired Bristol Bears to a 27-19 victory at Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership as they came from behind at the Twickenham Stoop.
The former New Zealand international’s try gave the Bears the lead for the first time, after an earlier break from him had helped drag them back into the picture following a difficult first half.
Quins led 9-0 approaching the break but they rarely got out of their own half after it, as Bristol ultimately scored four tries in recording their third league win in a row.
Fijian centre Semi Radradra was making his first Premiership start of the season for Bristol, while winger Louis Lynagh – son of Australia great Michael Lynagh – was making his full league debut for Harlequins.
It was Quins who claimed the game’s first points through a penalty from Marcus Smith and he then doubled his side’s advantage to 6-0 with another effort from the tee after 18 minutes.
It was a much better defensive showing from the hosts in the first half than in their Heineken Champions Cup thrashing at the hands of Racing 92 last week – they certainly had the air of a side that were keen to restore pride.
They were further ahead following Smith’s third penalty in the first 25 minutes before Wilco Louw came within a TMO decision of scoring, with replays unable to prove any grounding had taken place.
Bristol then roared back into the game with the final play of the first half when Luatua broke clear off Dan Thomas’ pass before giving the ball back for his fellow back-rower to score.
Callum Sheedy’s missed conversion left the Bears a 9-5 deficit to try to recover from after half-time, something they took just five minutes to achieve.
It came after Harry Randall caught Quins napping, as the scrum-half took a tapped penalty before passing to give Luatua an easy run-in from a few metres out, with Sheedy adding the extras.
Smith momentarily levelled the match with his fourth penalty, but Sheedy quickly restored Bristol’s lead with a kick of his own before missing the chance to extend it from long range just a few minutes later.
But the Bears scored their third try after 56 minutes following a strong carry from Nathan Hughes, as Randall picked up from a ruck and sped through a gap with Harlequins’ defence no longer looking as sharp.
"Yeahhh. He's alright!" ??
'Man of the Match' Dan Thomas dishing out the compliments to the captain @StevenLuatua ?
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 26, 2020
The visitors then bagged the bonus point with 13 minutes left when the outstanding Luatua’s off-load sent Niyi Adeolokun scampering clear down the left.
Smith, who scored all Harlequins’ points, kept plugging away until the last and his lovely solo effort down the right wing off the final play gave the hosts a consolation try.
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