Bath triumphed over Bristol in the west country derby, scoring three tries to two as fly-half Butch James kicked 18 points for their first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory at the Memorial Stadium since March 1998.
That was the season when Bristol were first relegated and they started this campaign where they left the last one – with another defeat, their seventh in a row.
Bath were forced to make two late changes to their starting line-up with skipper Michael Lipman rested after a clash of heads in the pre-season friendly against Edinburgh and centre Alex Crockett failing a fitness test on an ankle injury.
Tom Cheeseman joined Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu in the centre with James Scaysbrook at openside flanker while scrum half Michael Claassens led the side as Laurence Ovens and Jack Cuthbert were added to the bench.
The European Challenge Cup holders also included South Africa half back James just five days after he arrived back in this country after playing in nine international since he was last on these shores.
Bristol struck first with the first try of the game within the opening three minutes after wing David Lemi fed full back Luke Arscott and on to his brother Tom. The right wing was tackled as he tried to cut back inside but flanker Andrew Blowers picked up to go over from close range.
England Saxons fly-half Adrian Jarvis, on his Bristol debut, added the conversion from out wide on the right but was short minutes later with a penalty attempt from just inside the Bath half and 10 metres in from the left touchline.
Bath began to apply the pressure with a series of scrums close to the Bristol line and right wing Joe Maddock was stopped just short of the line. But international referee Chris White had seen an infringement and James added the penalty from in front of the posts.
The visitors went into the lead as Jarvis failed to find touch and full back Nick Abendanon sent Maddock off on a 35-metre race to score under the posts. James converted only for Jarvis to add a simple penalty and level the scores midway through the half.
On the half-hour, left wing Matt Banahan set centre Tom Cheeseman on a 25 metres dash to the line for Bath’s second try which James again converted but Bristol still had time to come back.
Lemi raced back into his own half to collect a clearance kick from Claassens and then weaved and dribbled his way to the post, evading at least six Bath defenders before touching down. Jarvis converted for a 17-17 scoreline at the break.
James added three penalties to one from Jarvis before Bath scored their third try of the game as number eight Jonny Fa’amatuainu went over from 30 metres with James adding the extras.
The visitors went in search of a bonus point try for a perfect start to their Premiership campaign but Bristol defended stoutly in the closing minutes.