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Match Report: Saracens 44 Bristol Bears 23

08 Sep 2018
Match Report: Saracens 44 Bristol Bears 23

A clinical second-half display helped Saracens see off the spirited challenge of Gallagher Premiership new boys Bristol Bears at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions made it two wins from two to start their title defence, despite trailing 18-13 at half-time in their opening home fixture.

A competitive contest hinged on ten frantic minutes after the interval, in which Saracens scored three tries and Bristol’s George Smith was red-carded.

Replacement wing Liam Williams was the Bears’ chief tormentor, ending with a hat-trick inside 25 minutes.

It was an ideal start for the hosts as Matt Gallagher – who earned a place in the side after impressing in the Premiership Rugby Shield – dotted down on five minutes.

After a smooth line-out, Owen Farrell switched the point of attack and Alex Goode’s smart offload put the young winger in.

Bears fly-half Callum Sheedy led the response, flighting a cross-field kick from a packed middle into space on the left for Alapati Leiua to level.

Sheedy struck a brace of penalties midway through the half and moments before its conclusion Leiua squeezed into the near corner for a second score.

Bristol’s disruptive play at the breakdown helped earn them a five-point lead at the break, with Saracens unable to establish full fluency.

But whatever director of rugby Mark McCall said in the dressing-room had an immediate effect as three tries arrived before the hour mark.

Alex Lewington’s strong start to life at Saracens continued as the ball went through hands and he sniped home out wide to level terms on 44 minutes.

Former Wallaby Smith was given his marching orders for a high tackle, leaving Bristol exposed to wave after wave of Saracens attacks.

Billy Vunipola marked his return from injury in style with a typically powerful finish, picking up from the back of the scrum and powering over to make it 25-18.

Fellow replacement Williams was another to make an immediate impact – scoring with his first touch in the 53rd minute and then again with a poacher’s finish in the 70th.

Pat Lam’s side refused to throw in the towel and Nick Haining’s improvised grubber kick helped him secure a third try of the day for his side.

But it would remain in a losing cause as Farrell’s cross-field punt was gathered by Williams and the Welshman gleefully touched down for his treble.

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