Gavin Henson kicked 12 points against former club Bath Rugby on his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start since October as Bristol Rugby edged out the West Country Derby 12-11.
That takes Mark Tainton’s side within two points of 11th-place Worcester Warriors following their third win of the season ramping up the pressure ahead of next weekend’s clash at Sixways.
Henson knocked over an early drop goal to take Bristol ahead but compatriot Rhys Priestland pulled Bath level with 30 minutes gone.
Three more Henson penalties before half-time ensured that Bristol led 12-3 at the break, with Welsh fly-half Priestland reducing it to 12-6 just shy of the hour mark.
Semesa Rokoduguni then plucked his tenth Aviva Premiership Rugby try of the year out of the air, snaffling Tusi Pisiu’s pass and racing the length before Priestland’s missed conversion let Bristol off the hook.
Thank you for your support this afternoon, and well done to Bristol. A truly dogged derby that one.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) February 26, 2017
The returning Jonathan Joseph and No. 8 Paul Grant combined effectively to put David Denton through to score, but the Scottish international fumbled with the line beckoning on nine minutes.
No. 10 Henson – starting a game at outside-half for the first time since he was a Bath player – put Bristol ahead with a smartly-taken drop-goal in the 11th minute.
The Grand Slam winner had another drop-goal shot and a 50-metre penalty attempt, but it was Priestland who notched the next points, thumping over a penalty with ten minutes left in the half to get Bath back on level terms.
It was all about Bristol’s new-look half-back pairing as the half wore on, Alby Mathewson’s good work in attack leading to a penalty shot for Henson that the Welshman duly banged over.
Bath again gifted Henson a shot at the sticks when influential full-back Jason Wooodward looked to break outside, with the 35-year-old obliging to put Bristol 9-3 ahead at the break.
How good could Wales have been in the last decade with a fit Henson at number 12?
— Chris Jones BBC (@chjones9) February 26, 2017
Priestland missed a shot to narrow the game a minute into the second period and when Rokoduguni spilled a Woodward kick a third Henson penalty followed and the game seemed to be shifting further in Bristol’s favour.
Scotland No. 8 David Denton looked to have bundled over in the corner after some fine handling in the centres from Ben Tapuai, but a stray foot in touch cost Blackadder’s side – Mathewson with a covering tackle on the big back-rower.
Priestland’s 58th-minute penalty closed the gap, but it was the ever-dangerous Rokoduguni who pulled Bath within a point ten minutes later.
The England winger picked off a stray Pisi pass to race away unchallenged, but with Priestland missing a relatively straightforward conversion, Bristol kept their noses in front at 12-11.
A messy clearout from Guy Mercer handed Bristol a chance to clear their lines as Bath searched for the matchwinner before Rokoduguni spilled a second high-ball to give the hosts another handle in the Bath half.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 26, 2017