Bristol, who failed to win a try-scoring bonus in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP last season, did it in style today – running in five tries to one as they overwhelmed Worcester, scoring their first league win over the Warriors since May 1999. However the game was marred when Warriors’ Samoan centre Dale Rasmussen had to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher near the end after clashing heads when he collided with Bristol’s Tongan international full-back Josh Taumalolo.
The Warriors, who completed a league double over their west country opponents last season and have only lost previously to them once in six league encounters, gave league debuts to England A full-back Lee Best, England Under-21 centre Simon Watling and England A wing Marcel Garvey – with Best and fly-half Shane Drahm up against their former club.
The visitors gave first league outings to Taumalolo, Wales international wing Craig Morgan and England Under-21 centre Andy Reay, with loosehead prop Dave Hilton making his 150th senior appearance in a Bristol shirt and captain Matt Salter starting his 100th Premiership game.
Bristol took the lead through fly-half Jason Strange from a 22 metre penalty from in front of the posts for offside. Strange, the leading penalty kicker last season in the Premiership with 28, increased the visitors’ lead in the 16th minute with a 30-metre kick – again from in front of the posts – only for Drahm to pull one back midway through the half from a similar distance. But Bristol cancelled that out as they continued to dominate the play with Reay linking up with flanker Joe El Abd to put former Wales international lock Gareth Llewellyn through for the opening try, which Strange converted from out wide on the left. Drahm replied with a second penalty before Bristol were denied another try when Morgan was judged to have put his foot in touch just short of the line.
Five minutes before the break England elite squad scrum-half Shaun Perry chipped over the Worcester defence with wing Lee Robinson winning the race for the touchdown in the corner. But the hosts reduced the arrears before the interval when replacement scrum-half Matt Powell had the ball knocked out of his hand when close to the line – but second row Phil Murphy was there to tidy up and cross for the Warriors. Drahm, like Strange just before him, was off target with the conversion to leave the Warriors trailing 18-11.
Former Wales A half-back Strange missed two penalties shortly after the restart – the second after Warriors tighthead prop Chris Horsman was sent to the sin-bin for taking Llewellyn out at the lineout. Bristol were also down to 14 men minutes later when Salter was carded for persistent infringement. Worcester, now back to full strength, were strong in defence and began to string several passages of play together – but basic errors cost them at the vital moment.
Bristol who scored next through two more Strange penalties, followed by a second Robinson try after an excellent move along the back line.
The visitors secured their bonus point as Morgan marked his league debut by intercepting a long pass from Drahm to run in from 30 metres – with Strange adding the conversion.
With the game deep in injury-time replacement hooker David Blaney – on his league debut – peeled round the front of the lineout and fed Perry, who ran in 35 metres for Bristol’s fifth try.