Bath head coach Neal Hatley has endured several disappointing displays and results from his team this season so he had a big smile on his face after their surprising 29-27 victory over Bristol.
It was a great day for Bath at the Recreation Ground as five tries and a bonus point also lifted them off the bottom of the Premiership standings, albeit only on points difference from Worcester Warriors.
Bristol’s ill discipline helped Bath
The home side were helped by their opponents as Siva Naulago’s first-half red card, along with yellows for Harry Thacker, Callum Sheedy and Theo Strang meant Bristol were down to 13 men on three occasions.
Like the 14,509 capacity crowd at the Rec, Hatley had an agonising wait for referee Luke Pearce to consult his TMO before awarding a final penalty with the clock stopped. Bath then worked Tom de Glanville over for the winning score, all having earlier been 21-0 behind.
Hatley said: “The last 20 seconds I really enjoyed! But I was disappointed with the way we started. We didn’t deal with their drive at all well.
“But I am so pleased with the spirit. We talked in the week about staying in every play. They (Bristol) are a dangerous side although the threats came from closer to the scrum and drive than out wider today.
“The big turning points were the cards. We had a good plan to expose that man off the pitch and to score two really quick tries like we did to go 19-24 suddenly brought us massively back into the game and forced the yellow card (for Strang) as well.
“When we went to 19-24 we had everything, all the momentum, but we let them back into the game.
“There were one or two moments where Ewen (Richards) and Josh Bayliss worked to get back under the ball to force goal-line drop-outs, that was absolutely phenomenal. We’re really pleased with a lot of our young boys.”
Two Thacker tries and one from Naulago had the Bears well in front, but with both of them off the pitch Semesa Rokoduguni cut the half-time deficit to 24-5.
Jonathan Joseph and Taulupe Faletau scored with Sheedy in the bin and Joe Cokanasiga and De Glanville turned the game around late on.
Bristol’s director of rugby Pat Lam said: “It is hard to take but firstly congrats to Bath. These games are always great and the atmosphere was superb.
“We started off really well but unfortunately, we had the red card and three yellow cards and that is 20-odd minutes defending with 13 men and the rest of the game defending with 14 men.
“At 24-all we were hanging in there in defence and the boys just kept getting up and making more tackles. The most gutting thing is we had the ball with 40 seconds to go and unfortunately we gave that silly penalty right at the end.
“If we could have seen it out it would have been one of my proudest and most enjoyable games but we couldn’t quite do it.
“I thought the yellow card at the end was unfortunate, the ball went forward so the pass was never on anyway, but it is what it is. With everything we faced that could have been a wonderful win, but it wasn’t to be but I am still proud of the boys.”
On the red card shown to Naulago for a dangerous tackle, Lam added. “We know the standard. Whether it is close or really high, anything in that area is going to end up with a red. I will have to look at it again.”
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