TOP BAR - Fixtures

Match Reaction: Bristol Bears 40-45 Northampton Saints

Match Reaction: Bristol Bears 40-45 Northampton Saints

A thrill-a-minute game at Ashton Gate saw Bristol Bears and Northampton Saints share 85 points but the Saints eventually secured a second Gallagher Premiership Rugby victory of the season.

It was Bristol’s first home defeat since March as Ehren Painter, Andrew Kellaway, Lewis Ludlam, the impressive Taqele Naiyaravoro, Alex Waller and Mike Haywood crossed for the visitors in a 45-40 triumph, with their scores being consistently supported by the unerring boot of Dan Biggar.

Bristol trailed at half-time for the first time this season despite Will Hurrell and Harry Thacker dotting down, while Luke Morahan’s effort and Hurrell’s second guaranteed a four-try bonus point before Alapati Leiua earned a losing bonus point at the death.

Northampton’s impressive recent record against the Bears continued, with their last defeat still a 14-13 loss at Memorial Stadium back in November 2008.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Bristol defenders, like most players he’s come up against in Gallagher Premiership Rugby this season, will probably have nightmares about Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The Northampton Saints winger is a brute and he was trucking defenders with abandon at Ashton Gate, charging down the wing and leaving a slew of opponents in his wake.

The powerhouse made 89 metres on nine carries and also beat five defenders, while deservedly getting himself a first try in Saints colours just after half-time – swatting away multiple defenders en route to powering over in the corner.

TRY OF THE MATCH

With 11 tries scored between the sides, you’re not short of options for a try of the match but Luke Morahan’s dot-down was arguably the most impressive.

Siale Piutau swept forward and started the move with a neat offload on the left before Callum Sheedy produced a pinpoint cross-field kick, Piers O’Conor won the ball in the air and flicked a delicious offload to the supporting Morahan to glide over the line.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Following Morahan’s try, Sheedy slotted a penalty to narrow Bristol’s deficit to a single point at 31-30 but Alex Waller then crossed the whitewash to put the visitors back in control.

Tom Collins’ tireless kick chase put Saints in a good attacking position and after Dan Biggar had a dart, the powerful Waller bashed his way through two defenders to score under the posts.

Northampton wouldn’t look back as they held on for an all-important victory on the road.

WHAT THEY SAID

Northampton Saints coach Chris Boyd said: “It was like a basketball game with the way both sides defended, but I think Bristol and Northampton will prove to be two of the more optimistic sides in the competition.

“Whether that will continue into December, January and February remains to be seen but while we can play across the top of the ground, we’re happy to do that.

“But we’re also capable of playing a game of contact. Our lineout drives have been good, we’ve mauled well.

“One of the encouraging things for me is that balance between playing territory versus possession and contact versus space, we’ve yet to find that balance and sweet spot for our team but we’re capable of playing more than one style of game.

“The most pleasing thing for us is that we got some points on the road.”

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam said: “Without a doubt it was an opportunity lost out there.

“We showed a lot of character to score at the end and grab two points but to conceded 45 points is not great.

“A lot of it was our own doing but ultimately we’re disappointed to concede so many. A lot of it came from errors and ill-discipline – it’s a frustrating game and I feel like we had a chance to get five points.

“All the games we’ve played this year have been about taking your opportunities. All the possession was against us in the first half and fair play to Northampton, they put us under pressure.

“We’ve got to take the learnings and move on ahead of Worcester next week.

“It’s important that if you don’t win the game, you get as many points as you can but that doesn’t take away from the disappointment that we didn’t take our chances to win.”

BEST OF SOCIAL

To get all the latest news from Premiership Rugby sign up to our Newsletter