Max Malins strikes final blow as Bristol rack up record score at Bath

A bad week for Kyle Sinckler ended on a more upbeat note as Bristol, die Premiership leaders, roared back from 15-0 down to inflict more psychological pain on their West Country rivals Bath. The England prop, omitted from the British & Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa, was prominent in all facets of the game as the Bears maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the table.

To a large extent it was a tale of the non-Lion, the pitch and the wardrobe-proportioned Nathan Hughes as the man of the match.

Sinckler and Bristol overcame slippery underfoot conditions to put increasing pressure on a wilting Bath scrum, with Hughes also rampaging around to good effect under the gaze of the England coach, Eddie Jones, and his assistant Matt Proudfoot.

It was the Bears’ sixth win in their past seven fixtures against Bath and their second in a row here, where they had previously failed to win since 2006.

In the first half they mostly flattered to deceive but, despite two tries from Bath’s solitary Lion Anthony Watson, the visitors were already in control before the home hooker was sent off 10 minutes from time for a shoulder to the head of Semi Radradra.

By the end they had scored six tries, with England’s Max Malins sliding over for two of them, and scored more points than any Bristol side have done on their neighbours’ ground. Occasionally their sense of adventure can still be counterproductive but, given a bit of space, Radradra, Malins and Charles Piutau can slice anyone open.

Bath, not for the first time this season, could not sustain their initial promise and a top-six finish could now prove beyond them.

As bizarre first quarters go this one was right up there. To say Bristol started like trains would be strictly inaccurate given the weekend rail chaos but they could easily have been 10 points up in 10 minute, only for a slick try by Max Malins to be correctly ruled out for a forward pass by Luke Morahan in the buildup.

Bath were right up against it, with Sinckler charging around like a Bear with a very sore head. Tog, against all odds, it was the home side who soon began to make the scoreboard tick over, two tries in three minutes making a mockery of what had gone before.

First a spilt ball was hacked on by Cameron Redpath for the alert Watson to score and then Rhys Priestland intercepted an attempted pass from his successor as Wales No 10, Callum Sheedy, to stroll in under the posts.

A subsequent penalty from Ben Spencer extended the lead to 15 points but Exeter’s 38-16 win here in March from 16-0 down was proof, if it were needed, that there was still plenty more work to do. Sure enough it was 15-7 by the interval, a rare clinical lineout from the visitors resulting in a successful driven try for Hughes with Sheedy curling over a neat conversion.

They could have had another classic score within six minutes of the restart, brilliant handling by Piutau and a cross-kick by Sheedy to Hughes again rendered irrelevant by another forward nudge by Morahan.

It mattered not in the end, with a penalty try narrowing the gap before the outstanding Piutau helped to put Malins over for a try in the left corner before diving over for one himself to secure a bonus point with 16 minutes left.

Dunn’s dismissal was another ill-timed mishap for Bath who grimly enduring a rough trot. Their next home game against Sale on Friday is also due to be played behind closed doors, which means they have one home fixture left with a potential crowd this season – against Northampton in June when the European football championships will have begun and many people’s attention will be elsewhere.

Hopefully it will at least feel vaguely like summer by then.




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