Bristol moved up to third place in the Guinness Premiership table, at least for 24 hours, as they ended a run of six defeats in all competitions against Worcester Warriors who left the Memorial Stadium with a losing bonus point which could prove precious in their battle against relegation.
Bristol made three changes after their 51-12 drubbing at Bath in the EDF Energy Cup last weekend. Hooker Mark Regan was back after an ear infection, flanker Alfie To’oala returned after being rested while former Plymouth Albion full-back Luke Arscott started only his second Premiership match of the season.
The Warriors, who had lost on their last two visits to the Memorial Stadium, welcomed skipper Pat Sanderson back at openside flanker in place of Tom Harding.
Kai Horstmann moved to blindside flanker and Drew Hickey switched to No.8. In the pack Darren Morris was at loosehead prop and Chris Horsman at tighthead.
Bristol missed an early opportunity to take the lead when the Warriors were penalised at the first scrum but fly-half Danny Gray, who is to join Exeter Chiefs next season, saw his kick go across the face of the uprights.
Then, on 12 minutes, full-back Shane Drahm, playing against one of his former clubs, put the Warriors ahead with a 20 metre penalty after a ruck infringement.
But midway through the half Bristol were in front as England scrum-half Shaun Perry picked up from the base of a ruck and found Arscott. He fed the ball to outside centre Neil Brew and on to David Lemi. The left wing stepped back inside the final man to score in the right corner but Gray was off target with his touchline conversion attempt.
The home side quickly increased their lead as Brew broke from a half tackle to feed veteran skipper Gareth Llewellyn who, when tackled on the 22, put inside centre Sam Cox away for Bristol’s second try by the posts. Gray finally found his target with the simple conversion.
The visitors came back to score two tries before the break. The first came from a move started from a quickly taken lineout on their own 22. The ball was worked across the field three times until finally inside centre Mark Tucker scored in the left corner. Drahm added the extras from the touchline to reduce the arrears to two points.
With the clock at zero the Warriors kept the ball alive and started another scoring move from deep in their own half.
Finally, when inside the Bristol 22, left wing Thinus Delport brushed aside the covering tackle and then stepped inside Arscott on his diagonal run to touchdown under the posts and Drahm converted for a 17-10 lead.
Bristol started the second half strongly with flanker Joe El Abd and Llewellyn being stopped just short of the line but when the ball was worked wide Gray knocked-on Perry’s poor delivery from a ruck. Poor passing continued to hamper Bristol’s game as the players began to look tired in the sunshine.
The home side were back in front 15 minutes in to the second half when Samoan international Lemi again showed than he is capable of the perfect side-step when he went inside Drahm to score his second try of the match in the left corner with Gray converting from out wide.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Bristol were finding it hard to breach the Warriors defence so when faced with a ruck 22 metres out Gray placed himself perfectly to accept the ball from Perry and neatly slot his drop kick ball through the uprights to take a five-point gap through to the final whistle.