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Match Report: Bristol Rugby 8 Harlequins 42

10 Feb 2017
Match Report: Bristol Rugby 8 Harlequins 42

Harlequins rained on Tom Varndell’s parade as the Londoners earned a bonus point win in the West Country on the night he became Premiership Rugby’s all-time leading tryscorer.

Joe Marchant got Harlequins off to a flyer before Varndell touched down for his 91st try in English rugby’s top tier.

That was as good as it got for Bristol Rugby though, with Mark Reddish, Charlie Mulchrone, Matt Hopper and Ross Chisholm all scoring for Harlequins to cap their first away win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to make their mark at Ashton gate as Marchant dotted down under the posts.

The centre latched onto a clever chip over the home defence after a fine rolling maul had given Harlequins the chance to kick for the corner – Ruaridh Jackson adding the extras in the third minute.

But the home side hit back soon after as a show and go from Billy Searle brought Bristol into the Harlequins 22, and when they won a penalty within range, Jason Woodward reduced the deficit to four points.

But it was soon back up to seven as Jackson knocked over a penalty after Bristol were caught offside in their own 22.

History then followed as Varndell, who came into the game level on 90 Premiership Rugby tries with Mark Cueto, got the score he needed to take the record out right after 19 minutes.

And he did it in style too, sprinting in at the corner; but the conversion was missed to leave Bristol still trailing by two.

Life got a little tougher for Bristol moments later as Varndell – their top scorer this season – was forced from the field with a knock picked up in finishing his record-breaking try.

Harlequins continued to push for a second try of the game, but Rob Hawkins did well to wrap up his man and allow Bristol to clear the danger after another five-metre lineout for the visitors.

But they did not leave the Bristol half empty handed and eventually forced a penalty that Jackson converted from a tight angle to extend their lead to five.

Things then got worse for Bristol as Ryan Bevington was sent to the bin for a high tackle on the stroke of half time.

And it went from bad to worse for Bristol on the resumption of play as replacement Reddish bundled over from close range, with Jackson maximising the score.

Neither side could manage to get the upper hand in ensuing passages of play, with turnover following turnover as Bristol tried in vain to get a quick reply on the board.

And they nearly crossed the line near the 50-minute mark, but a Bristol charge down was cleared at the last moment by Mulchrone.

And the scrum-half soon had a say at the other end of the field, touching down for Harlequins’ third try after a break from Dave Ward, with Jackson converting to put his side 27-8 ahead with 25 minutes to play.

Bristol were given a lifeline as Tim Visser was sin-binned for a professional foul near his own goalline.

But 14-man Harlequins were still dominating, grabbing their fourth try as Marchant intercepted a Bristol pass on his own line and streaked down the field for Hopper to go over after the centre was brought down – but Jackson was unable to add the extras on the hour mark.

Bristol continued to attack but could not turn possession into points and Harlequins made them pay.

At first they were denied by the TMO, but Chisholm did get the score when he powered over from close range to score a fifth Harlqeuins try of the night with just three minutes to play.

The conversion was made by Tim Swiel and the replacement added a penalty with the clock in the red to rub salt into Bristol’s wounds.