Saracens Storm’s unbeaten run in the Aviva A League has come to an end as they went down 31-27 against Bristol United at Clifton RFC.
The two bonus points in defeat were not enough for the Storm to overtake Exeter Braves at the top of the A League Southern Conference, leaving them a trip to Northampton Wanderers in the semi-final.
Both teams scored four tries in an entertaining game with the Storm ultimately leaving themselves too much to do when they trailed 24-8 at half-time.
After one early penalty apiece, United’s Chris Brooker – playing in the unfamiliar position of flanker – scored the game’s opening try from the back of a powerful driving maul.
Wing Darren Hudson extended Bristol’s lead when he finished off scrum-half Andy Uren’s break to cross in the corner, and two successful conversions from Under-18s full-back Dan Powell made the score 17-3.
The Storm hit back through Aaron Morris in the right-hand corner, but it did little to stave off Bristol’s first-half momentum as a penalty try gave them their third five-point score before the break.
At 24-8 down, Saracens had plenty of work to do in the second half, but they started strongly when substitute Tom Whiteley broke through the midfield before sending Nathan Earle over.
Bristol United had their bonus-point try soon after however when centre Will Sharratt finished a move which had started with a quickly taken penalty from Uren.
Saracens still refused to lie down and back-rower Anthony Maka provided some hope for the visitors before Seb Nagle-Taylor ensured a tight finish when his converted try narrowed the deficit to just four points.
And despite a late scrum and multiple phases in the Bristol 22, the United defence held firm to secure the squad’s second win of the season.
After the game, Academy Manager Mike Hall was full of praise for the togetherness his 23 had shown throughout their final A-League game of the season.
He said: “They fought hard for each other and it’s fantastic to get a win against Saracens who were pushing to finish top and get a home semi-final, it was a fantastic effort.
“We know there’s a lot of talent out there; we know there are good players playing at Bristol University, Hartbury College and Dan Powell at full-back from Exmouth has played National 3 but he didn’t miss a kick tonight.
“Ultimately that won us the game so from one to 23 it was an outstanding effort.”