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Premiership: Bristol Bears v Northampton Saints


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Premiership: Bristol Bears v Northampton Saints

Bristol hooker Harry Thacker scored the first of his side’s seven triesBristol (21) 47Tries: Thacker, Leiua, Uren, Vui, Earl, O’Connor, Morahan Cons: Sheedy 6Northampton (3) 10Tries: Gillespie Cons: Grayson Pens: GraysonBristol ran in seven tries as they battered Northampton Saints to climb back to second in the Premiership.The Bears were 21-3 up inside the first…

Premiership: Bristol Bears v Northampton Saints
Bristol hooker Harry Thacker scored the first of his side’s seven tries
Bristol (21) 47
Tries: Thacker, Leiua, Uren, Vui, Earl, O’Connor, Morahan Cons: Sheedy 6
Northampton (3) 10
Tries: Gillespie Cons: Grayson Pens: Grayson

Bristol ran in seven tries as they battered Northampton Saints to climb back to second in the Premiership.

The Bears were 21-3 up inside the first 19 minutes with converted tries from hooker Harry Thacker, winger Alapati Leuia and scrum-half Andy Uren.

Saints did well either side of the break, getting back to 21-10 with a score in the corner for Josh Gillespie.

But three tries in six minutes came from Chris Vui, Ben Earl and Piers O’Connor before Luke Morahan sealed it.

That came after the game went to uncontested scrums after 55 minutes when Saints lost a second loosehead prop to injury, reducing them to 14 men.

But centre O’Connor’s try was nonetheless a stunning 90-metre length-of-the-field effort from one end of the field to the other, straight from the Saints restart after flanker Earl’s try, involving six players, some imaginative zigzagging and eight clinical passes.

Callum Sheedy landed six of his seven conversion attempts, missing only the last, while Paul Grayson improved Gillespie’s try to add to his earlier penalty.

Bears were without suspended skipper Siale Piutau, who began his three-game ban for fighting in Friday’s bonus-point win at Worcester.

But, despite making nine changes and going scoreless for over half the game, between the 19th and 62nd minutes, Pat Lam’s men were good enough to claim another bonus-point win and move three points clear of Sale, who host Saracens on Wednesday night.

Northampton, who had a youthful side out, having made a full 15 changes from their defeat against leaders Exeter, not surprisingly suffered a fourth straight defeat — a fifth in six Premiership games since the competition restarted.

Where they stand now

While Bristol have edged seven points clear of fourth-placed Wasps and eight ahead of neighbours Bath, in fifth, Saints are now 10 points off the play-off places, with only three matches of the regular season remaining — and their play-off hopes fading fast.

Bristol’s top try scorer Earl now has 10 Premiership tries for the season, one behind Gloucester’s Ollie Thorley, the league’s leading scorer.

Morahan had a second try ruled out late on for having a foot in touch, but the one that did count on 72 minutes was his ninth at Ashton Gate this season, equalling former Bristol winger David Lemi’s club record.

Bristol’s final points total was the club’s highest in the Premiership since a 48-41 win over Harlequins at the old Memorial Stadium in March 2003.

Bristol boss Pat Lam:

«We started pretty well, and then we lost control. When we got to 21-3 ahead, we needed to control our game a lot better.

«If you want to win titles, your discipline has got to be better but, in the final quarter, we were superb.

«There was some great off-loading and, win or lose, we always say we will take the points and take the learnings.»

Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd:

«We knew it was going to be a tough ask and then we managed to peg it back to 21-10.

«But, then when we lost our two looseheads and went down to 14 it was bit of a perfect storm. When they are hot, they are hot.

«We dropped off some tackles and made some poor reads and, when we go back on the tape, it will tell us if some guys are ready to play this level or not.»

Bristol Bears: C Piutau; Morahan, Radradra, O’Conor, Leiua; Sheedy (capt), Uren; Woolmore, Thacker, Sinckler, Attwood, Joyce, Vui, Earl, Hughes.

Replacements: Capon, Y Thomas, McCabe, Luatua, D Thomas, Cook, Malins, Lloyd.

Northampton Saints: Freeman; Olowofela, Dingwall, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, James; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Haywood, Painter, Moon, Isiekwe, Gibson, Ludlam (capt), Adendorff.

Replacements: Marshall, Auterac, Garside, Bean, Uru, Taylor, Bird-Tulloch, Gillespie.

Referee: Tom Foley.

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