Guinnness Premiership - Round 19 Review
Bristol win to keep hopes alive
March 29, 2009
Bristol's Lee Robinson forces an opening in the Worcester defence during their clash at the Memorial Stadium © Getty Images
Saracens 19 - 14 London Wasps Bristol Rugby 37 - 18 Worcester Warriors Newcastle Falcons 14 - 10 Leicester Tigers Sale Sharks 23 - 16 Bath Rugby
Basement side Bristol kept their Guinness Premiership survival hopes alive with a 37-18 victory over fellow strugglers Worcester at the Memorial Stadium.
Defeat for Bristol would have condemned them to relegation three games inside the distance after a miserable season but they conjured up an unlikely bonus point victory against the 11th-placed Warriors, recording only their second Premiership success of the campaign.
Bristol could go down next Saturday if they lose against title play-off contenders London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, yet they can take great heart from a display that bristled with confidence. They had a few nervous moments after seeing a 17-0 lead clawed back to just two points, but then finished strongly against a woefully out-of-sorts Worcester side. Worcester are now nine points above Bristol, and they could have few complaints after being shredded by tries from fullback Tom Arscott, lock Mariano Sambucetti, centre Junior Fatialofa, wing Lee Robinson (2) and substitute scrum-half Haydn Thomas.
Bristol could even afford fly-half Ed Barnes to miss four out of six conversion attempts, while Arscott's drop-goal ensured Worcester, who notched earlier tries from Dale Rasmussen and Kai Horstmann, did not threaten a losing bonus point.
Bristol boss Hull said, "The only way we can get out of this hole is by carrying on playing with confidence. London Irish away will be tough opposition next Saturday but we will take it as it comes."
Elsewhere on Sunday, Saracens scored a 19-14 victory over London Wasps at Vicarage Road.
Saracens winger Francisco Leonelli ran in a late try to virtually kill off Wasps' hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Cup. The Premiership champions dominated the second half and appeared to have snatched victory when Gloucester-bound winger Tom Voyce crossed with three minutes to go. But Leonelli struck as the match entered injury time to effectively end Wasps' chances of finishing in the play-offs.
More worryingly for Ian McGeechan's side, they must produce a spectacular late run in their last four remaining games to book their place in Europe's premier club competition next season. England fly-half Danny Cipriani missed three of his six shots at goal in an otherwise lively display but opposite number Glen Jackson was virtually flawless in finishing with 14 points.
It was a dire spectacle that provided little entertainment for the 16,257 sell-out crowd that had turned out to watch the London derby at Vicarage Road.
Newcastle continued their resurgent form to take a seventh win in eight games with an outstanding display on their way to a 14-10 victory over leaders Leicester at Kingston Park.
The hosts held on after establishing a 14-0 half-time lead through a try from centre Tane Tu'ipulotu and nine points from the boot of fly-half Tom May, who enjoyed a superb match with his astute tactical kicking punishing Leicester errors. The Tigers got on the board through a Toby Flood penalty and grabbed a losing bonus point at the death as Ben Youngs capitalised on a chargedown to score.
The game opened with both sides showing the confidence to go through the phases and it was the Falcons who took a 15th-minute lead when fullback Alex Tait put Tane Tu'ipulotu over in the corner for an unconverted try. Fly-half May then extended the lead by knocking over a 45-metre penalty, with the help of the crossbar, after Leicester slowed the ball down at a ruck before slamming over a drop goal from a similar distance moments later and adding a further penalty in the shadows of half-time to make it 14-0.
Leicester, who must have had the words of acting head coach Richard Cockerill ringing in their ears, started the second half with renewed vigour as they forced the Falcons into phase after phase of defence with the home side conceding a penalty to allow Flood to get the Tigers on the board.
The visitors continued to dominate territory and possession throughout the final quarter but time and again they were frustrated by Steve Bates' side. But they earned what could prove to be a vital bonus point as May's clearance to touch to end the match was charged down and replacement Youngs dotted down the bouncing ball and Flood added the extras.
Newcastle director of rugby Steve Bates hailed his side's superb victory as their best of the season. "The first-half in particular was our best performance of the season. I had said to the guys beforehand that we were going to have to be at our best tonight. We scored a cracking try and we played some really good stuff."
Leicester acting head coach Richard Cockerill praised Newcastle's display but admitted his side had been well below their best. "I think we got more out of the game than we deserved in the end," said Cockerill. "Our intensity did not match theirs most of the time and we were sloppy and turned the ball over. We were just a little bit disjointed tonight. It was the really basic things that let us down."
And Sale kept their Premiership play-off hopes alive with a 23-16 victory over Bath at Edgeley Park. Check out our Game of the Week report.
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