Bristol Bears 31 - 12 Cardiff Rugby
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Fri 11 November 19:45 Ashton Gate Friendly

Bristol Bears 31 Cardiff Rugby 12

Fri 11 Nov 2022 22:59 Bristol Bears 31 Cardiff Rugby 12

Cardiff produced a spirited performance at Ashton Gate, but were ultimately defeated by Bristol Bears under the Friday Night Lights.

With a four-week break in their BKT United Rugby Championship, the Blue and Blacks travelled over the bridge as they looked to maintain match sharpness ahead of a trip to South Africa later this month.

The hosts were in the ascendancy at the break, crossing for four tries to rack up a comfortable lead, with Cardiff claiming one of their own through skipper Liam Belcher.

However, the visitors showed their character in the second half to largely limit the home side, as a mixture of youth and experience gained valuable playing time in the build up to a crucial block of competitive fixtures.

Mason Grady got on the scoresheet with a powerful effort from close range, but Harry Thacker’s late score sealed the victory for Bristol and put any hopes of a comeback beyond doubt.

The sides will meet again in February - on the eve of Wales’ Six Nations clash with England - for a reverse fixture at Cardiff Arms Park.

The hosts enjoyed a blistering start to the encounter, opening the scoring moments after kicking off.

James Williams - who was a late replacement in the Bristol starting line-up - showed footwork to initially get behind the Cardiff defence. While he was eventually halted, the outside half offloaded to Harry Ascherl, who had a clear run to the line to dot down for an early score.

Bristol seemed almost certain to make it a quickfire second moments later, but a stunning tackle from Lloyd Williams denied his opposite number, Will Porter, in the shadows of the sticks.However, the Cardiff number nine was caught in the resulting breakdown, and was duly sent to the sin bin as Bristol's attack was killed.

Having had their backs to the wall for the opening 10 minutes, 14-man Cardiff soon gained momentum and territory, thanks to a Theo Cabango surge and a series of penalties. 

And the visitors ensured they came away with points from their first visit to the Bristol 22. Outside half Jarrod Evans advanced the away side into the corner, and the pack set-up a driving line-out, with captain Liam Belcher rumbling over from close range.

Evans brought proceedings back level, but the deadlock was short-lived as Bristol swiftly regained the lead with a driving line-out of their own - Jake Kerr the man to go over on this occasion.

Bristol extended their lead on the 25-minute mark, and this time Porter did make it to the line thanks to a clever snipe to sneak by the fringe defence.

Joe Jenkins crashed over from another driving line-out before the interval to give the hosts a comfortable 24-7 lead at the break.

Bristol picked up where they left off after the restart, enjoying the majority of territory and possession. However, Cardiff’s aggressive goal-line defence kept them at bay on a number of occasions, with the likes of Shane Lewis-Hughes playing a crucial role at the breakdown.

And once again Cardiff showed their clinical touch to make the most of limited opportunities in the Bristol 22. Seconds after being beaten to a loose ball by the dead-ball line, Grady turned to route one, showing his power game to crash over from close range.

While Bristol continued to press, Cardiff looked dangerous with their smash-and-grab opportunities, and almost closed the gap to a single score. A spilt ball in the 22 was hacked upfield and - out of nowhere - Harri Millard showed his pace to race onto the loose possession. The bounce was awkward for the centre, but he managed to kick ahead, twice, before being taken out. The resulting penalty saw Burnell taking play into the corner, but Bristol survived the drive on this occasion.

With the clock edging towards the red, Bristol put any hopes of a Cardiff comeback to bed with a late Harry Thacker score - their first of the half.

But Cardiff will travel home with positives from a useful run-out as attention now turns to block two of the competitive calendar - which includes a South African double-header, a return to European rugby and the festive derbies.