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Match Report: Bristol Bears 20-13 Harlequins

22 Sep 2018
Match Report: Bristol Bears 20-13 Harlequins

A metronomic Ian Madigan ended 12 years of hurt for Bristol Bears as they recorded a hard-fought win over Harlequins for their second Gallagher Premiership Rugby victory of the season.

After beating Bath Rugby on the opening day, Bristol had suffered consecutive defeats on the road but a return to Ashton Gate was just what the doctor ordered as they triumphed 20-13 – a first league win over Quins since 2006.

Madigan booted 15 points from the tee to add to Piers O’Conor’s try towards the end of the first half, while a trademark Danny Care try in the early going wasn’t enough to break the Londoners’ winless away streak, which stretches back to last November.

Swirling wind and rain in the West Country made handling tricky but it didn’t stop Bristol’s Irish fly-half from consistently doing damage from the tee as the Bears put any lingering frustration at blowing successive half-time advantages behind them.

Harlequins took an early lead thanks to a vintage Care try – the scrum-half exhibiting his trademark sniping run from the base of a ruck in the home 22 to weave over the line, before James Lang nailed the conversion.

A Lang penalty made it 10-0 and after a sluggish opening quarter, the Bears finally began to gain a foothold as Madigan took advantage of Quins being off their feet to get his side on the board with a three-pointer.

With Ben Tapuai in the sin-bin, Bristol started to press their one-man advantage but the visiting defence held firm as Nathan Earle did well to push a marauding Harry Thacker into touch and Alapati Leiua made a 30-metre break.

And Thacker was the architect when the Bears did grab a try on 36 minutes – the hooker making a scything break before his backs went left and O’Conor slid over in the corner from Andy Uren’s searching pass.

Madigan missed the conversion but ensured that for the fourth Gallagher Premiership Rugby game in a row they would lead at half-time, by slotting another penalty to make it 11-10.

Although they had blown their half-time advantage in the previous two games – against Saracens and Gloucester Rugby – Pat Lam’s men looked determined to convert their position of strength and Madigan took advantage of two Quins infringements early in the second period to extend the lead to 17-10.

Lang responded with an impressive 45-metre penalty of his own in the wind and rain but again Madigan was metronomic on the hour mark as he hammered a kick from tight on the right touchline straight between the posts.

With a seven-point advantage to preserve heading into the final 20 minutes, Bristol began to look tense – overthrowing a five-metre lineout when well-placed to add to their lead.

But despite Quins’ best efforts, and over 20 phases once the clock seeped into the red, they eventually knocked the ball on to end the game and hand the Bears a second Gallagher Premiership Rugby win of the season.

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