Saracens breach Bristol to cut gap at top
PUBLISHED: 18:29 29 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:06 30 April 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Saracens 27 Bristol 9
Saracens closed the gap on Aviva Premiership leaders Wasps with a win over newly-relegated Bristol at Allianz Park.
The Hendon-based club now sit two points behind the front-runners with one more league game to play before the play-offs.
But the home side looked a completely different team at times and first half handling errors and infringements hampered any opportunities to maintain any possession.
Neither side were able to stamp any control on the game early on and despite fly-half Owen Farrell missing an early penalty to open the scoring, Chris Ashton looked to have touched down in the corner after chasing a blocked kick.
The TMO adjudged Ashton offside from the initial breakaway and it was the away side who broke the deadlock midway through the first half as Gavin Henson slotted a penalty to give his side an early advantage.
Bristol capitalised on the home side’s errors and opened up a 9-0 lead just before the break, with Henson kicking two further penalties.
But Saracens registered their first points of the half with a penalty from Farrell which reduced the arrears to six points at the break.
Mark McCall’s team-talk had an immediate impact as Ashton crossed the line for the home side in the opening stages of the second period, with the winger making no mistake this time and collecting his own kick through and diving over.
Farrell duly converted to give Sarries the lead for the first time in the game with a 10-9 advantage, but the handling errors continued for the hosts.
Bristol failed to take advantage of the possession handed to them, however, and it was Saracens who began to take control of errors from the visitors.
Replacement prop Petrus du Plessis bundled over for his first-ever try for Sarries from short range following a trademark rolling maul.
And the home side’s third try come soon after with centre Nick Tompkins supporting the break of Alex Lozowski to cross the whitewash for an easy touchdown.
Farrell failed to convert either try, but a 20-9 lead allowed Sarries to start running through the gears.
The bonus-point try came in the final stages with du Plessis once again scoring from short range after another rolling maul.
Farrell’s conversion took the score to 27-9 as the home side closed the gap to two points on leaders Wasps, with the sides locking horns next Saturday at the Ricoh Arena in the final league fixture of the season, with top spot well and truly up for grabs.