Premiership: Gloucester edge Bristol in West Country thriller, while Saracens and Northampton also win

Colin Newboult

Gloucester claimed a stunning 31-28 triumph over fellow West Country outfit Bristol Bears in one of the games of the season so far.

It was a thrilling clash throughout as the two sides traded blows. The Cherry and Whites were fastest out of the blocks as Jordy Reid touched down before Sam Bedlow levelled matters.

Val Rapava-Ruskin then restored the hosts’ lead but the teams could not be separated as Piers O’Conor crossed the whitewash for the Bears.

Although Freddie Clarke’s try gave George Skivington’s men a 21-14 advantage at the break, Bristol would not go away and scores from Ellis Genge and Andy Uren moved the visitors ahead for the first time in the match.

However, Rapava-Ruskin once again tied the match before Adam Hastings’ late penalty snatched the win for Gloucester.

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Gloucester changes included England wing Jonny May returning to the starting line-up, with Santiago Carreras moving to full-back, while centre Chris Harris replaced Mark Atkinson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury at Bath last weekend.

Bristol handed scrum-half Tom Whiteley a first start since February, taking over from an injured Harry Randall, with Fitz Harding returning to the back-row alongside Chris Vui and Dan Thomas.

Both teams displayed plenty of ambition in the early stages, with Gloucester’s Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit proving a considerable attacking threat.

And it was no surprise when Gloucester took an 11th-minute lead, relying on their outstanding driving maul to breach Bristol’s defence as Reid touched down and Hastings converted.

Bristol had opportunities to hit back quickly, but poor ball retention proved their undoing and Gloucester’s powerful counter-ruck led by number eight Ruan Ackermann often sent them into reverse gear.

The visitors did not lose their composure, though, and patient build-up play saw them draw level through a 25th-minute try for Bedlow that Callum Sheedy converted after the centre crashed crashed through weak Gloucester defence.

It was a game of little pattern, yet the excitement levels continued as the sides matched each other blow for blow.

Gloucester went back in front eight minutes before half-time after Harris caused panic in Bristol’s defence and Rapava-Ruskin dived over the top of a ruck to score.

Hastings’ conversion made it 14-7, but Bristol hit back after Genge’s strong midfield charge created enough space for Uren, who replaced Whiteley, to send O’Conor through a huge gap, with Sheedy adding the extras.

But just when Bristol thought they had done enough to go off level at half-time, Ackermann stormed clear from the back of a scrum and Clarke powered over, giving Hastings an easy conversion as Gloucester secured a 21-14 interval advantage.

It took Bristol just five minutes into the second period to draw level for a third time, and this time it was Genge who did the damage, claiming his fourth Premiership try this season.

Sheedy’s conversion tied the game up once more before the impressive Uren went close to a dazzling solo score, but he was hauled into touch by Gloucester’s last defender.

Bristol should have made no mistake just three minutes later following a piercing Charles Piutau break, but flanker Dan Thomas lost the ball under pressure from Rees-Zammit, and the chance went begging.

Gloucester, though, could not escape Bristol’s attacking menace, and Uren put them ahead for the first time with a try that Sheedy converted.

But Gloucester set up a thrilling final quarter by claiming the eighth touchdown of a pulsating contest as Rapava-Ruskin again crossed Bristol’s line, with Hastings converting before he provided the match-winning moment.

Saracens edge past spirited Bath

Saracens overcame a spirited Bath 37-31 in an enthralling back-and-forth Premiership encounter at the StoneX Stadium.

Tries from Alex Goode, Max Malins, Elliot Daly and Alex Lewington and stellar goalkicking from Owen Farrell secured the result for the table-topping hosts.

Bath took the game to the wire, thanks to scores from Matt Gallagher, Joe Cokanasiga, Max Ojomoh and Wesley White along with the boot of Orlando Bailey.

However, they could not force a late winner as Johann van Graan’s men succumbed to a sixth consecutive defeat in the league.

Northampton withstand Newcastle fightback

Northampton Saints held off a Newcastle Falcons fightback to secure a nerve-jangling 32-31 win at cinch Stadium.

The home side had appeared to be cruising on two occasions during the game, going 13-0 up in the first half before the Falcons scored twice to make it 14-13 at the break.

Northampton then looked to have regained control, going 32-14 ahead via Tom Collins, Juarno Augustus and Ollie Sleightholme tries, but again the Falcons refused to lie down.

They roared back to just a point down with nine minutes to play as Mateo Carreras, Jamie Blamire and George Wacokecoke went over.

There was plenty of tension among the home supporters, but their side saw the game out to secure their second successive bonus-point win in the Gallagher Premiership.

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