Tom Arscott’s first-half try on his home debut enabled Bristol, third in the table last season, to finally get back to winning ways against London Irish.
Bristol were forced to make a late change when wing Luke Arscott twisted his knee in the training run but head coach Richard Hill was able to draft international David Lemi in to the starting line-up following Samoa’s exit from the Rugby World Cup in France.
London Irish made one change from the side that beat Newcastle Falcons the previous week with director of rugby Brian Smith bringing Samoan World Cup wing Sailosi Tagicakibau in to the starting line-up in place Argentinian Tomas De Vedia.
Bristol made an impressive start with wing Tom Arscott breaking down the right and when the ball was worked in to midfield the Exiles were caught offside allowing fly-half David Hill to slot the simple 20 metre penalty between the uprights with just two minutes on the clock.
The home side quickly extended their lead when they spread the ball across their backs with full back Josh Taumalolo coming up in to the line to put Arscott through for the opening try. Hill was off target with his touchline conversion attempt.
The visitors got their first points on the board after 10 minutes with a 40-metre penalty from full-back Delon Armitage after Bristol were penalised at a scrum. Lemi was denied a try in the corner because the Exiles were offside.
Hill sliced his penalty attempt but made amends a couple of minutes later with a 15 metre kick. Armitage missed the opportunity to reduce the arrears immediately with his 30 metre attempt but found his target from a similar distance on the other side of the pitch.
Trailing 11-6 at the break the Exiles started the second half the stronger and wing Topsy Ojo was bundled in to touch just short of the line. But, as in the first half, the visitors wasted opportunities as they conceded penalties through simple handling errors.
Taumalolo was lucky not to be carded 15 minutes in to the half for a high tackle on Exiles’ fly-half Shane Geraghty. Minutes later Hill kicked his third penalty for Bristol’s first second-half points of the season, having conceded 28 after the break in their opening two matches.
Exiles applied the pressure in the closing stages with a series of scrums close to the line and when they were awarded a couple of penalties they opted for the scrums. The forwards finally went over with replacement flanker Steffon Armitage getting the touchdown.