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Match Reaction: Bristol Rugby 26 Sale Sharks 11

Acting head coach Mark Tainton insists every Bristol Rugby player can be left beaming with pride after a 26-11 Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Sale Sharks secured their first win of the season.

Tries from debutant Jason Woodward, Rhodri Williams and Jack Tovey, together with eight points from the boot of Billy Searle, gave the hosts a vital win at Ashton Gate, a first in any competition this campaign.

That was despite Dan Mugford giving the Sharks an early lead from the tee, with Bristol far from having things their own way.

But their resilience proved a particular highlight for Tainton, his side dealing with a fightback that saw Halani Aulika cross before eventually holding on for the Anglo-Welsh spoils.

“We wanted to play a bit of rugby and play with fear. I knew we’d make mistakes, but it’s how we reacted to that,” explained Tainton.

“We met the collisions head-on. The players worked their socks off. We were delighted with our defensive line speed.

“The players can be proud of their performance. The supporters were fantastic, I can’t wait to see how many we’ll take to Bath (next week’s Aviva Premiership Rugby opponents). Perform like that, and we will keep them coming back.

“We will make mistakes if we try and play football, but it’s a huge boost to get that first win. We have to take that into Bath now.”

It was the introduction of Woodward to a Bristol shirt that proved particularly eye-catching for Tainton, with the centre opening his account just nine minutes into his Ashton Gate berth.

And from there the hosts never looked back, Williams also crossing before the break, while Tovey added gloss with 30 minutes still to play.

Aulika pulled back a score shortly after the break, but after last week’s Anglo-Welsh Cup success over Wasps, director of rugby Steve Diamond cut a disappointed figure after slipping to defeat, conceding his side were far from their best.

“I thought Bristol thoroughly deserved their win,” he admitted. “They out-grunted us and got some belief which they held on to, so fair play to them.

“We just had no control of the game; we were poor tonight so we’re disappointed.”

Bristol Rugby: Wallace, Varndell, Woodward (L Arscott 69), Hurrell, Tovey, Searle (Jarvis 57), Williams (Cliff 65), Traynor (Tonga’uiha 58), Hawkins (Jones 42),  Ford-Robinson (Hall 72),  Evans (Phillips 62), Sorenson, Eadie,  Fenton-Wells, Crane (Koster 61)

Sale Sharks: T Arscott, Ingall (Charnley 54),  Bedlow (Tuitupou 51), Leota, Scott, Mugford, Mitchell (Stringer 51), Flynn, Webber (Langdon 57), Aulika (Parker 75), Nott, Reed, B Curry, T Curry, Pearce (Ioane 51).

Bristol Rugby 26
Tries: Woodward, Williams, Tovey
Conversions: Searle
Penalties: Searle 3, Jarvis

Sale Sharks 11
Tries: Aulika
Penalties: Mugford, Arscott

Referee: Greg MacDonald
Attendance: 4, 903

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