Bristol moved to within two points of Worcester Warriors in the Premiership following a 12-11 triumph over West Country rivals Bath.
Gavin Henson kicked a drop-goal and two penalties as Mark Tainton’s men went into the break 9-3 ahead. The former Wales international added a fourth three-pointer before the visitors reduced the arrears through Rhys Priestland’s second penalty and Semesa Rokoduguni’s try. That looked to have snatched the win but Priestland’s conversion was wide of the target and the hosts went away with a priceless victory.
After seeing their opponents ship over 90 points in their previous two matches, Todd Blackadder’s side were clear favourites going into this encounter, but they were met by a solid Bristol wall. They were outstanding in defence and deserved the lead given to them by Henson’s drop-goal.
Bath had chances to score but an excellent cover tackle by Will Hurrell sent Harry Davies into touch. In the end, the visitors had to be content with a Priestland penalty at the end of the first quarter as the Rec-based outfit levelled matters.
Bristol duly grew in confidence and the away team became more and more frustrated. That led to infringements at the contact area and two Henson efforts off the tee gave Tainton’s men a six-point buffer at the break. He extended that advantage in the second half following another three-pointer before the inevitable onslaught occurred.
Priestland reduced the arrears with a penalty and Rokoduguni then intercepted a stray pass to cross the whitewash.
Bath’s fly-half missed the conversion, however, and the hosts went into the final 14 minutes 12-11 ahead. Blackadder’s side pressed for the winning score but the basement-dwellers maintained their discipline to pick up a vital win.
Pens: Henson 3
Drop goal: Henson
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 David Lemi, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jordan Crane (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Jack Wallace
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Harry Davies, 10 Rhys Priestland (cc), 9 Chris Cook, 8 Paul Grant, 7 David Denton, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (cc), 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Max Clark
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal, Steve Lee
TMO: David Grashoff