Promoted Bristol stun Bath in Premiership opener
London (AFP) –
Bristol enjoyed the perfect return to the English Premiership as they stunned local rivals Bath 17-10 in the opening game of the season on Friday.
Ian Madigan kicked four penalties and a late Alapati Leiua try proved decisive in front of Bristol's record home crowd of 26,000 at Ashton Gate.
Bath had recovered from a nine-point deficit to lead when Tom Homer scored a second-half try and Rhys Priestland kicked a conversion and penalty.
But the visitors paid the price for an early blunder as an unmarked Homer somehow failed to ground the ball after crossing Bristol's line.
Bristol, last season's Championship winners, didn't look overawed as Steven Luatua and Chris Vui delivered stand-out displays that offered hope of a strong showing in the top-flight.
Bath debutant Jamie Roberts made his presence felt inside two minutes with a crunching tackle on Bristol full-back Luke Daniels.
But the Wales centre was penalised for the challenge being too high, before Luatua stripped Semesa Rokodoguni of possession to set up a first home attack.
Madigan kicked Bristol into a ninth-minute lead, only for Bath to blow a try in astonishing fashion.
Having broken Bristol's defence through the power running of Joe Cokanasiga, number eight Taulupe Faletau and Roberts, Priestland delivered a scoring pass to Homer.
Referee JP Doyle initially awarded the try, but then consulted with his television match official as video footage showed Homer had missed the score.
Madigan doubled Bristol's lead with a penalty 12 minutes before the break.
Madigan completed his penalty hat-trick early in the second half as Bristol continued to grow in confidence.
The visitors needed a flash of inspiration, and it came from Zach Mercer, who left a trail of Bristol defenders in his wake, then found a supporting Underhill and Homer this time finished things off.
Priestland's conversion narrowed the gap to two points as Bristol had centre Tusi Pisi sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
The Wales international kicked his first penalty at the third attempt, edging Bath ahead, only for another Madigan to restore Bristol's lead six minutes later.
Leiua then sealed the deal through a brilliant finish eight minutes from time.
© 2018 AFP