European Challenge Cup: Bristol Bears 56-17 Dragons

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Semi Radradra (left had a big hand in both Ben Earl’s first-half tries before crossing himself after the break
Bristol Bears (24) 56
Tries: Hughes, Earl 2, Radradra, Vui, Malins, Thomas Cons: Sheedy 6 Pens: Sheedy 3
Dragons (10) 17
Tries: Hewitt, R Williams Cons: S Davies 2 Pens: S Davies

Bristol Bears reached the last four of the European Challenge Cup after a 56-17 victory over Dragons at Ashton Gate.

Pat Lam’s team recovered from a poor start to book a semi-final meeting with either Bordeaux-Begles or Edinburgh.

Ashton Hewitt’s try put Dragons ahead early on, but Bristol stormed back to claim a comprehensive win.

Ben Earl claimed two tries, while there were also scores for Nathan Hughes, Semi Radradra, Chris Vui, Max Malins and Dan Thomas.

Dragons scrum-half Rhodri Williams scored the first try of the second half, but his team finished up well beaten.

Underdogs they may have been, but Dragons began the contest on the front foot, with Sam Davies kicking an early penalty before the Wales international fly-half’s precise cross-kick set up the first try of the night.

Wing Hewitt gathered and then fended off Bears full-back Charles Piutau before going over.

Having stumbled through the first quarter, Bristol turned the tide of the game in spectacular fashion as they scored three tries in six minutes.

The first, on 20 minutes, was the result of the first serious spell of pressure Bristol put on their opponents.

Ashton Hewitt's try capped an impressive start to the game by Dragons
Ashton Hewitt’s try capped an impressive start to the game by Dragons

After Piutau made an initial break, Bristol moved the ball swiftly through the hands and number eight Hughes was left with a simple task of crossing in the corner.

Centre Radradra and Piutau then combined to open up Dragons’ defence before Earl went over for the second Bristol try.

With Dragons struggling, Bristol came again just two minutes later as Radradra fed Earl. The open-side flanker produced a fabulous sidestep to take him past Jordan Williams and crossed for his second try.

Callum Sheedy converted all three tries and added a penalty to give the Bears a 24-10 half-time lead.

Dragons needed a strong start to the second half, yet within three minutes they were back under their own posts after a fourth Bristol try.

It was a fabulous solo effort from Radradra, who broke through Dragons’ defensive line near halfway and then crossed thanks to a combination of pace and nimble footwork.

Dean Ryan’s team conjured a response of sorts, with former Bristol player Williams fooling Vui with a dummy at the base of a ruck and then beating Sheedy to score, with Davies adding the extras.

That cut the gap to 14 points, but Sheedy – who finished with 21 points – kicked two more penalties before Vui scored from close range to put the result beyond doubt six minutes from time.

With Dragons beaten, Bristol broke from their own 22 for Malins to score a fine try before fellow replacement Thomas claimed their seventh try three minutes from the end.

Bristol will discover who stands between them and a place in the final when Bordeaux-Begles host Edinburgh on Saturday lunchtime, with the semi-final to be played on 26 September.

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam:

“Real credit to Dragons, first 10-15 minutes was tough. The game plan they did put us under a lot of pressure. We turned the ball over five times and gave away penalties and they were deserving of their 10-0.

“Once we got control of the game by doing the simple things well, we put them under pressure and got in the ascendancy with three quick tries.

“The scoreline doesn’t reflect the effort of the Dragons, but we got through and that’s the most important thing. We have got to make sure we get our preparation right again this week – it’s a massive week to try to get the club into a final.”

Dragons scrum-half Rhodri Williams:

“It shows the quality of side they are – credit to Bristol. There were two spells there where they are scoring 21 points before we could turn around.

“There were plenty of positives for us as well. First 15 minutes it was 10-0 and we were piling on the pressure, but we took our foot off the throttle a little bit and they punished us.

“It’s a massive experience for the boys to come here and face opposition like that.”

Teams

Bristol: Charles Piutau; Luke Morahan, Semi Radradra, Piers O’Conor, Henry Purdy; Callum Sheedy, Andy Uren; Jake Woolmore, Harry Thacker, Kyle Sinckler, Dave Attwood, Chris Vui, Steven Luatua (capt), Ben Earl, Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: Will Capon, Yann Thomas, John Afoa, Joe Joyce, Dan Thomas, Harry Randall, Max Malins, Alapati Leiua.

Dragons: Jordan Williams; Jonah Holmes, Nick Tompkins, Jamie Roberts, Ashton Hewitt; Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (capt); Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Aaron Wainwright, Harrison Keddie, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Josh Reynolds, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Maksymiw, Taine Basham, Luke Baldwin, Josh Lewis, Adam Warren.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (Fra)

Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (Eng), Ian Tempest (Eng)

TMO: Rowan Kitt (Eng)

Citing commissioner: Peter Ferguson (Ire)

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunionexternal-link on Twitter.



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