Late heartache for Saints as Bedlow wins it for Bristol

David Ribbans scored the opening try for SaintsDavid Ribbans scored the opening try for Saints
David Ribbans scored the opening try for Saints
Sam Bedlow struck a penalty with the final kick of the game to inflict a cruel 18-17 defeat on Saints at Ashton Gate on Friday night.

Determined scores from David Ribbans and Piers Francis had put Saints in control at 14-0 up early in the game, but Bristol bit back.

However, with 12 minutes to go, James Grayson slotted a conversion that put Chris Boyd's men 17-8 up and it looked like they would finally ended a nine-match losing streak.

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Bristol kept going though, and Piers O'Conor's try with eight minutes to go gave Bristol renewed hope.

Api Ratuniyarawa was in the thick of the actionApi Ratuniyarawa was in the thick of the action
Api Ratuniyarawa was in the thick of the action

And after Ehren Painter was deemed to have slapped the ball out of Bristol hands in the final seconds, replacement fly-half Bedlow stepped up to spark wild scenes of celebrations in the home camp.

It was agony for Saints, who have now lost 15 of their past 17 matches in all competitions ahead of the start of their Champions Cup campaign next Friday.

The black, green and gold had headed to Bristol on the back of back-to-back defeats at the beginning of the new Gallagher Premiership season and they almost got off to a nightmare start.

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Nick Isiekwe dropped the kick-off and the Bears were immediately at the door.

Tom Collins was making his 100th Saints appearanceTom Collins was making his 100th Saints appearance
Tom Collins was making his 100th Saints appearance

Tiff Eden, a late replacement for benched Bedlow in the starting 15, beat Rory Hutchinson and charged towards the line, but he was stopped at the last and Saints survived, with Lewis Ludlam turning the ball over.

Saints slowly started to get a foothold in the game, playing at a nice tempo, and they were to break the Bristol resistance with power followed by a tidy finish from Ribbans.

Grayson converted and Bristol were starting to really struggle, losing out at the breakdown, robbing them of any field position.

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Saints, in contrast, were looking strong and determined, and they pounced again as Francis beat three Bears players to a Grayson kick ahead to score.

Piers Francis impressed and scored during the first periodPiers Francis impressed and scored during the first period
Piers Francis impressed and scored during the first period

Grayson converted and it was a healthy 14-0 lead for the men in white, who were making some real noise after every event that went their went in the early stages.

But Bristol found a response soon after, drawing Saints in and then hitting them out wide as Henry Purdy skipped past Matt Proctor to score.

Eden missed the conversion and Saints were straight back on the front foot, once again led by the influential Francis, whose break was stopped inside the Bristol 22.

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There was plenty of huff and puff in the period that followed, but Bristol thought they had scored their second try two minutes before the break.

Alapati Leiua finished off a fine move on the Bristol left, but the TMO spotted a knock-on by Andy Uren in the build-up and the try was chalked off.

Owen Franks helped Saints to win a big penalty from the resulting scrum and they held out to preserve their nine-point lead at the break.

Saints lost Francis and Reece Marshall to HIAs early in the second half, and they were starting to concede scrum penalties, with two in quick succession putting Bristol in position.

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They opted to go for goal with the second one, allowing Eden to cut the Saints lead to six points.

Saints conceded another scrum penalty to allow Bristol to knock on the door again, but Ribbans intervened, winning a key turnover on his own line that brought big celebrations.

Eden missed a penalty soon after and Saints then defended strongly again to stop Bristol in their tracks on the edge of the away 22.

But Saints could not sort out their scrum, and Eden had another good chance from the tee, however he missed again to let the men in white off the hook.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro was brought on for centurion Tom Collins as Saints tried to get some momentum back, while Bristol opted to take Eden off as Bedlow came on.

Saints wasted a big chance to snatch something in Bears territory after a fine kick from Alex Mitchell put the pressure on.

But Ludlam ensured Saints would eventually get the kind of extra breathing space they wanted, winning a crucial breakdown penalty, which Grayson landed.

It put Saints 17-8 up with 12 minutes to go, but the Bears still had bite and O'Conor raced on to a tidy kick ahead to score.

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Bedlow converted quickly and Bristol had eight minutes to save themselves and inflict more misery on Saints.

It looked like Saints had done enough but with 30 seconds to go, referee Pearce went to the TMO to see if Painter should be punished.

It was deemed that he should, and Bedlow stepped up to deliver a penalty that needed nerves of steel before his team-mates joined him to celebrate on the field.

Bristol Bears: Purdy; Adeolokun (Fricker 59 (Uren 69)), O'Conor, S Piutau (c), Leiua; Eden (Bedlow 61), Uren (Randall 55); Woolmore (Y Thomas 65), Byrne (Capon 55), Lahiff (Afoa 45); Attwood (Holmes 52), Joyce; Heenan, D Thomas, Hughes (Eadie 65).

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Saints: Tuala; Proctor, Francis (Dingwall 42), Hutchinson, Collins (Naiyaravoro 59); Grayson, Taylor (Mitchell 55); Waller (cc) (van Wyk 55), Marshall (Fish 44), Franks (Painter 55); Ratuniyarawa (Adendorff 65), Ribbans; Isiekwe, Ludlam (cc), Wood.

Referee: Luke Pearce