Home Sports Off colour Bristol Bears beaten by Saracens on opening night

Off colour Bristol Bears beaten by Saracens on opening night

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The Gallagher Premiership’s great showmen Bristol Bears fluffed their lines as they raised the curtain on the opening night of the new season on Friday.

Saracens, back in the Premiership after a year in the Championship as punishment for breaching the league’s salary cap, looked like they had never been away and strangled the life out of Bristol, forcing the wasteful and errant hosts to misfire and lose 9-26 at Ashton Gate.

For most of the night it was attack against defence in a clash of rugby philosophies and sadly the latter, a speciality of the Men in Black, came out on top.

Had Bristol been sharper and more accurate the story may well have been different but the Bears, who opted not to play any competitive pre-season games this summer to rehearse for the big show, failed to score a try in the Premiership for the first time since January 5, 2019 in a 14-9 defeat against Exeter Chiefs who went on to be crowned champions that season.

And make no mistake, Saracens – who were missing all their five British and Irish Lions stars plus a host of other internationals – will be in the hunt for a sixth Premiership title come June on this evidence.

Fly-half Alex Lozowski was Saracens’ match-winner with 21 points from the boot to punish Bristol’s indiscipline and came up with a wonderful grubber assist for the only try of the game for winger Alex Lewington.

After a cagey opening, the hosts took an early lead through the boot of Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy before Lozowski hit back to equal the score at the ten-minute mark to make it 3-3.

Bristol added a further six points to their tally, to take the lead after the first quarter but Lozowski retaliated again to bring the scores within three points, 9-6.

After 25 minutes Bristol exploded into life through the indomitable Charles Piutau, breaking from deep to almost send Welsh winger Ioan Lloyd over in the corner but for a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Elliott Obatoyinbo.

With a minute remaining of the first half Lozowski kicked to level the score at 9-9, and both kickers entered the break having kicked three successful penalties from four attempts.

Bristol failed to heed the advice of their half time team talk from director of rugby Pat Lam who called for control and discipline and the second half started with two early penalty kicks from Lozowski to give Saracens a quick six-point lead, 9-15.

Lozowski punished the Bears for each lapse with a further two penalties racing the visitors out to a 12 point advantage with 15 minutes remaining.

English international Lozowski, who won the European Challenge Cup last season while on loan at Montpellier, then played the ace up his sleeve with a wonderfully deft grubber kick in behind the Bears defence with the inside of his right boot which Lewington won the race to dot down.

In the closing moments, Bristol broke the line with replacement scrum-half, Harry Randall slicing through for what would have been a consolation score but a knock-on by flanker Dan Thomas summed up an off-colour display from last season’s table-toppers.

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Bristol Bears: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Ioan Lloyd; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Ed Holmes, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Will Capon, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Jake Armstrong, 19. Dave Attwood, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Sam Bedlow, 23. Niyi Adeolokun.

Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Aled Davies; 1 Ralph Adams-Hale, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Marco Riccioni, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Jackson Wray ©, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Ben Harris.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (242nd Premiership game).

Assistant Referees: Paul Dix and Jamie Leahy.

TMO: Tom Foley.

Citing Officer: Paul Hull.

Attendance: 19,003



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