Bristol 14-17 Harlequins, Guinness Premiership, March 1
Quins snatch victory against Bristol
March 1, 2009
Quins' Ugo Monye celebrates scoring the match-winning try
© Getty Images
Harlequins heaped woe on lowly Bristol with a 17-14 victory in their Guinness Premiership clash at the Memorial Stadium.
England wing Ugo Monye broke Bristol hearts by sinking the relegation favourites with an injury-time try. Monye, a second-half substitute, struck after Bristol went 14-10 ahead through a 73rd-minute penalty try.
It denied the Premiership's bottom club only their second league victory of the season as they began life without Richard Hill. A battling display saw Bristol move ahead after wing David Lemi was barged off the ball as he chased a kick behind Quins' line.
Hill, whose six-year reign as head coach ended on Friday, has seen his long-time assistant Paul Hull take over in the coaching hot seat. And while Hull looks as though he will be presiding over a National League One club next season unless his players can muster an unlikely fightback, he can take heart from a committed effort.
A losing bonus point proved scant reward from a game that leaves Bristol 12 points behind 11th-placed Worcester with just seven Premiership fixtures left. Bristol led at half-time thanks to a converted Neil Brew try, but England wing David Strettle's touchdown within two minutes of the restart edged Quins ahead.
And they just did enough to shade the contest, claiming a win which lifts them into fourth place above Leicester and Bath. Bristol suffered an unsettling start, losing fly-half Adrian Jarvis in the third minute with a leg injury as Quins monopolised possession, freeing wings Strettle and Tom Williams at regular intervals.
But the Bristol defence, despite being stretched, denied Quins during an opening quarter the visitors dominated in terms of territory. And Bristol then stung the visitors by scoring a try from their first notable attack.
Wing Lee Robinson's powerful break scattered three Quins defenders, and when the ball was moved wide, hooker David Blaney delivered a scoring pass to Brew. Barnes' touchline conversion made it 7-0, but Quins responded within eight minutes when former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall sent hooker Gary Botha on a 15-metre run to the line.
The South African bundled Bristol scrum-half Shaun Perry out of his path, claiming a try that brought Quins back to within two points, yet their early fluency had been stalled by Bristol's impressive organisation. Malone missed the conversion before Barnes rifled a penalty wide, but with number eight Dan Ward-Smith enjoying a productive game in the loose, Bristol continued to generate momentum.
And a 7-5 interval lead was a deserved reward, given they had nullified the threat of Quins' early wide game by making their tackles count. Quins though, required little time to wipe out Bristol's lead, moving ahead in the 42nd minute when Perry spilled possession inside his own 22, Malone sending Strettle sprinting away.
Neither side could establish a firm grip on the contest and with the scrums proving a mess for referee Chris White, his patience finally snapped 12 minutes from time. Bristol tighthead prop Darren Crompton and his opposite number Ceri Jones were both sin-binned, but the home side then went ahead seven minutes from time.
Lemi, comfortably the biggest attacking threat in either side, launched a superb kick and chase to the corner. He was denied the touchdown, yet White awarded a penalty try on the recommendation of his assistant after a Quins player pushed Lemi as the Samoan attempted to touch down.
Barnes added the extras, and then it was a case of whether or not Bristol could keep their nerve and preserve a four-point lead. It was no surprise that a team short on confidence could not quite manage it, as Monye struck the killer blow before Malone converted and lifted the Londoners into play-off territory.
Bristol boss Paul Hull has vowed his team will keep battling despite edging nearer to National League One. "The last couple of weeks have been difficult circumstances," said Hull. "But the players have responded very well. I wanted to up the ante today, and we got ourselves in a position to win the game. We are very disappointed, though, we didn't finish things off.
"Worcester and Newcastle have turned the corner in the Premiership, which makes it difficult for us, but we just look at our performance and focus on what we can do. We want to finish the season with a couple of wins under our belts. We can still try to grind out some wins."
Quins rugby director Dean Richards was left frustrated by the performance of referee Chris White, whose patience with both sides in the scrums ran out 12 minutes from time when he yellow-carded Bristol prop Darren Crompton and his opposite number Ceri Jones. "I will be looking very closely at the referee's decisions and consistency across the board," said Richards.
"The disappointing thing was the way he didn't take charge of the scrummaging. I thought we showed a lot of endeavour in the first half and tried to play, but we didn't quite get the rub of the green. It became a very messy game."
Bristol: T. Arscott, Robinson, N. Brew, Eves, Lemi, Jarvis, Perry, Irish, Blaney, Crompton, Attwood, Budgett, R. Pennycook, El Abd, Ward-Smith, Thompson.
Replacements: Barnes for Jarvis (4), Winters for Attwood (47), Thompson for El Abd (67), To'oala for Thompson (77). Not Used: Regan, Thomas, N. Brew.
Sin Bin: Crompton (66).
Harlequins: Tries: Botha, Strettle, Monye. Cons: Malone. Harlequins: Brown, Strettle, Tiesi, Turner-Hall, T. Williams, Malone, Gomarsall, Jones, Botha, Ross, Kohn, Robson, Robshaw, Skinner, Guest.
Replacements: Monye for T. Williams (65), Poluleuligaga for Gomarsall (73), McMillan for Ross (70), J. Evans for Kohn (61), Lambert for Robshaw (67). Not Used: Croall, Luveniyali.
Sin Bin: Jones (66).
Ref: Chris White (RFU).