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Match Report: Bristol Rugby 28 Worcester Warriors 20

26 Dec 2016
Match Report: Bristol Rugby 28 Worcester Warriors 20

Tom Varndell’s fast finishing was to the fore as he ran in a hat-trick to hand Bristol Rugby their first Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season, beating Worcester Warriors with 14 men.

The flying winger now sits on 89 tries, one behind Mark Cueto’s all-time Premiership record, as Bristol cut the gap on Worcester in the table.

Varndell got his opener, minutes before Tusi Pisi saw red for the home side and Darren Barry’s try saw Worcester go ahead.

But Varndell got his second before the break, and when Dean Hammond ran in a long-distance effort after half time, the veteran was on hand to complete his hat-trick and secure the points.

A third-minute Mitch Eadie break through the Worcester defence set up the platform for Bristol to gain a penalty at the breakdown and for Jason Woodward to open the scoring from the tee.

But Bristol were penalised at a lineout three minutes later and Jamie Shillcock had no trouble levelling matters, from wide on the right.

Parity did not last long, though, and a perfect training-ground move from a line-out on the half-way line led to Billy Searle bursting through the Warriors defence, before passing to Varndell for a simple finish from 22 yards out – Woodward adding the extras.

As Bristol searched for their first win of the Premiership season their task was made harder as the returning Pisi saw red for being adjudged to have tackled Shillcock in the air.

And when full-back Chris Pennell kicked a simple penalty on the quarter hour mark, Worcester were only four behind.

That deficit was wiped out five minutes later as Barry went over for his first Warriors try – despite a valiant effort from Will Hurrell for Bristol – after fine work from Ben Te’o; Pennell adding the extras.

The home side were not giving up, though, and Varndell got his second of the game with a thrilling finish, getting back to his feet after being felled by Pennell following a Will Cliff break; Woodward off target with the conversion.

And he missed again, on the half-hour mark, after Na’ama Leleimalefaga was penalised for collapsing a scrum 40 metres out in the middle of the field.

Life then got easier for Bristol as Barry went to the sin-bin after a fine rolling maul from the home side almost had them over for a third score – and Woodward kicked the resulting penalty to stretch their lead to five.

The home fans then almost had more to cheer for in the half’s dying moments, but Olly Robinson was held up over the line.

Warriors spent much of the opening ten minutes of the second half in Bristol territory, but when Michael Dowsett was penalised at a home scrum on their five-metre line, the visitors lost a promising position.

And Hurrell then added another turnover to his impressive tally for the season, allowing Bristol to emphatically clear their lines and get into the Warriors half.

Bristol were still absorbing Worcester pressure, though, until a Varndell break on 55 minutes lit up the crowd and laid the ground work for the home side winning a penalty that Woodward kicked to put his side eight points ahead.

Searle then made more than 50 yards in territory on the hour mark as his kick bounced into touch, off the corner flag, with Bristol then regaining possession on the Worcester ten yard line.

The attack came to nothing though and, in a flash, Worcester were back in the game as Dean Hammond ran in from 65 yards after selling a dummy inside his own half – Pennell adding the extras.

That moved Warriors to within a point, but the 14 men of Bristol were not lying down and fine work from Woodward saw Varndell complete his hat-trick two minutes later – the full-back accurate from the tee.

Bristol gave Warriors an opportunity to close the gap with nine minutes remaining, though, but Pennell’s penalty was wayward after the home side infringed at the scrum.

And after Bristol kept out Warriors for 13 phases at the death, the win was secured.