Bristol continued their unbeaten start to the season with a smash-and-grab raid on London Irish that carried them top of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
Bristol hit back from 11-3 down at half-time to secure what, for the first 40 minutes, seemed a highly-improbable victory.
They survived a battering from London Irish, who could only manage a brilliantly orchestrated try for Kieron Roche.
And then bounced off the ropes after the interval to land the killer blows from replacement winger David Lemi and Lee Robinson.
Fly-half Jason Strange scored 13 points from three penalties and two conversions.
His opposite number Riki Flutey, despite all the work he has done with England’s World Cup kicking guru Dave Alred, landed just two from five.
While Bristol top the table following their opening-day victory over Worcester and last week’s draw at Saracens, London Irish are struggling to recapture their form of last season.
Mike Catt was excellent on his return to the side and scrum-half Paul Hodgson a terrier at the base of the scrum but the Exiles will be kicking themselves at failing to push home that first-half dominance.
It seemed only a matter of time before the fastest back three in the Premiership would cut loose but it never quite happened.
When Delon Armitage counter-attacked and spun the ball out to number eight Juan Leguizamon London Irish were in their own half but a try seemed inevitable.
The lightning-fast Topsy Ojo was on the outside but Leguizamon delayed and delayed until his own running angle squeezed the space and Hodgson covered well for London Irish.
The Exiles found their breakthrough after 23 minutes when Catt’s vision and long pass sent Ojo clear down the right.
When the winger was hauled to ground, Catt sent a raking pass out to the left and Roche had the simple task of finishing off the score.
Bristol then suffered badly with the loss of open-side flanker Joe El Abd to what appeared to be a broken ankle and prop Dave Hilton to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.
Flutey extended the London Irish lead from the resultant penalty – which appeared harsh from television replays – but otherwise Bristol coped well.
Flutey ran through a weak tackle from Strange but Irish could finish off the break and led only 11-3 at the turnaround.
Within three minutes of the restart Danie Coezee was sin-binned for interference at the ruck and Bristol began their comeback.
Strange reduced the arrears to 11-9 with two penalties before Armitage attempted to chip and chase inside his own half and ran straight into the back of Bristol centre Sam Cox.
Bristol mopped up and Lemi sped over in the corner. Once Bristol hit the front they squeezed the life out of London Irish who soon made another careless mistake.
Hodgson opted for a quick lineout inside his own 22 but it to Phil Murphy isolated and when Bristol won possession they spun it wide right for Lee to race over in the corner.
In the midst of it all, London Irish prop Neal Hatley came on for his record-equalling 174th Premiership appearance.