Gallagher Premiership review: Bristol comeback stuns Exeter

Bristol celebrate
Bristol celebrate

A review of Sunday's action in the Gallagher Premiership, where Bristol completed a remarkable comeback against Exeter.

Sunday's results

  • Exeter Chiefs 17-20 Bristol
  • London Irish 36-11 Leicester Tigers

Bristol comeback stuns

Bristol completed a remarkable recovery by scoring a last-minute try through Dan Thomas to beat Exeter 20-17 and move top of the Gallagher Premiership.

The visitors had trailed 17-0 at the break but rallied to stun the Chiefs at Sandy Park and make it three wins from four at the start of the season.

With time up, Bristol won a penalty which Callum Sheedy kicked to the corner and from there the Bears forwards built up a head of steam to crash over the line.

The countless replays appeared inconclusive but the try was awarded and, after Sheedy slotted over the conversion, Bristol were able to celebrate a superb comeback victory which sends them top.

Sam Simmonds and Nic White scored Exeter's first-half tries with Joe Simmonds converting both and adding a penalty.

Piers O'Conor was Bristol's other tryscorer with Sheedy finishing with two penalties and two conversions as the visitors scored 20 unanswered points after the interval.

The opening 15 minutes were a poor advertisement for Premiership Rugby as both sides struggled to bring any continuity to their game.

Basic handling errors abounded with possession being swapped from side to side, which belied the excellent playing conditions.

Eventually Chiefs managed to string a few passes together and took the lead through a 14th-minute try from Sam Simmonds.

Henry Slade, on his first game back from England World Cup duties, skilfully evaded a couple of defenders and Sam Simmonds was on hand to drive over from close range for a try that his brother Joe converted.

That breakthrough was the catalyst that Exeter needed as they became increasingly dominant and, following some accurate handling, they picked up a second try.

A splendid off-load from Slade created space for Stuart Hogg before the full-back sent Tom O'Flaherty racing down the right flank. When the wing was hauled down, White saw a gap to dart over.

Joe Simmonds converted again before adding a simple penalty for Exeter to lead 17-0 at the interval.

At that stage, it looked an uphill task for Bristol to reverse their fortunes as apart from a couple of lively runs from wing Luke Morahan, they hardly struck a blow in a one-sided first half.

Four minutes after the restart, they received some encouragement when Sheedy kicked a wide-angled penalty but normal service was immediately resumed as Chiefs pinned their opponents in their own 22.

The hosts appeared to have extended their lead when Alex Cuthbert forced his way over only for the TMO replays to show the wing had put a foot in touch just before grounding the ball.

England squad members Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell were brought on as Exeter sought to increase their firepower, but it was Bristol who scored next when Sheedy kicked his second penalty after Hogg was penalised for not releasing.

Sheedy's penalties were the only scores of a dull third quarter as the game continued to struggle for entertainment but, with 17 minutes remaining, White was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on and Bristol took full advantage when Morahan's speed created a try for O'Conor.

Sheedy's conversion brought Bristol to within four points before the late drama saw replacement flanker Thomas touch down to earn the visitors a scarcely believable victory.

London Irish dominate Leicester

A thoroughly dominant display by Premiership new-boys London Irish delivered a valuable 36-11 bonus-point win over Leicester Tigers at the Madejski Stadium.

The points came from everywhere for the Exiles, with Oli Hoskins, wing Ben Loader and Ruan Botha getting over in the first half and Stephen Myler adding seven points with the boot.

Tigers had two first-half penalties to show for their efforts and got a late score for Jonah Holmes, but Irish continued to run riot after the break as Waisake Naholo and Tom Parton secured the five-point victory.

Hoskins got the first after just eight minutes as he took the ball off the back of a rolling maul and burrowed over from close range.

A Tom Hardwick penalty got the visitors on the board after 15 minutes, but Irish had their second try at the quarter-way point, Loader taking the ball from 22 metres out and touching down despite a last-gasp attempt to hold him up.

Both sides struggled to create further opportunities before the break but after Myler added three points with a penalty, a terrific breakaway score for the hosts on the stroke of half-time was capped off by Botha for a 22-6 lead.

The Tigers started the second half the better of the two sides but could not make their dominance count, best exemplified when Hardwick's pass sailed way behind Adam Thompstone as opportunity knocked.

Leicester's best chance came as Hardwick made a great line-breaking run and offloaded inside to Noel Reid, but with the line at his mercy he just could not hold onto the ball and the knock-on cost a valuable opportunity.

The hosts put the game out of reach with just over 15 minutes to go as fly-half Myler showed great awareness and creativity to kick the ball out to the right wing where the onrushing Naholo got the benefit of the bounce.

The New Zealand international, on his first appearance for Irish, just about kept his feet away from the touchline before barrelling over his opposite number to score in the corner.

Leicester pushed for a late consolation but a knock-on allowed Parton to scoop up the ball and sprint from inside his 22 to score under the posts and seal the bonus point.

Holmes would get a late try as the clock turned red but it was far too little too late for Tigers, who finish the weekend bottom of the Gallagher Premiership after Bath's victory over Northampton Saints.

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