Jason Woodward hailed a dream debut with a maiden try as Bristol Rugby romped to their first win in all competitions this season over Sale Sharks in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
It was the visitors who first got on the scoreboard as Dan Mugford converted a simple penalty in front of the posts at Ashton Gate.
But Bristol soon got their just reward for their early pressure, as Woodward crossed the whitewash in the corner following a Billy Searle grubber kick to edge the hosts into a narrow lead, with Searle missing the conversion.
The Sharks were unlucky not to regain the lead straightaway when Mugford hit a penalty against the woodwork, a miss he would later rue as Searle rectified his earlier attempt from the tee after Halani Aulika was penalised.
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) November 11, 2016
Bristol were lucky not to concede ten minutes from the break after a strong attack from Sale, only for George Nott to spill possession 5m from the line for the knock on.
And the hosts extended their lead five minutes from the break, Rhodri Williams crossing over from the base of the maul to score the try from close-range.
Celebrations for Bristol were quickly overshadowed however, when Rob Hawkins was sent to the sin-bin following an incident in the try’s aftermath, leaving his team a man down heading into the interval.
The Sharks got their first try of the game five minutes after the break, when Aulika demonstrated his power to charge over the line from 5m out, Mugford missing the conversion.
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) November 11, 2016
But Bristol soon extended their lead when Jack Tovey put the ball over the line following a slick backline move from the hosts, with Searle adding the extras from the tee, before adding three further points after the Sharks tried to steal the ball at the ruck.
Tom Arscott narrowed the deficit for the visitors against his former club after Bristol were penalised for offside, but Adrian Jarvis soon restored the hosts’ 15-point advantage.
Sale thought they had scored a try when Johnny Leota crashed over, but the TMO ruled the ball had not been grounded and Bristol were awarded a scrum at 5m.
They had one final opportunity in the dying seconds of the game, but failed to capitalise on a line-out within the Bristol 22, allowing the hosts to wrap up their first victory in six months, cueing jubilant celebrations from the Bristol faithful.
The second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend. For full details of the tournament and tickets for the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March see www.new-heroes.com