Friday, 6th March 2020 @ 15:00
Harlequins weren’t able to halt Bristol’s winning streak, despite tries from Aaron Morris and Gabs Ibitoye, with the Bears winning 28-15 at Ashton Gate.
With less than three minutes of play, Bristol made the most of ‘free ball’ following the penalty advantage, to send the ball out wide and Luke Morahan crossed the line for the first score of the afternoon. Callum Sheedy’s conversion gave Bristol the 7-0 lead.
After Bristol conceded a penalty on the sixth minute, Brett Herron was able to secure Quins’ first points of the day, from the boot, to narrow the gap to 7-3.
Just after the 10-minute mark, Bristol extended the lead following Quins being penalised in the scrum. Sheedy slotted the kick between the sticks, with some help from the posts, to give the home side a 10-3 advantage.
Quins then had some time with the ball, gaining ground through Herron’s penalty into touch after Bears collapsed the maul illegally. The forwards drove forward, attempting to break down the defence before Bristol stripped the ball. However, a wayward pass from Bristol gave Luke Northmore the chance chase down the Bristol defender and force him down in the dead ball zone for a Quins scrum, five metres out.
From the scrum, Quins were able to catch out Bristol with Danny Care feeding the ball out to the right, allowing Aaron Morris space to touch down. Herron wasn’t able to add the extras and Quins trailed Bristol 10-8 after 19 minutes.
Bristol bounced back immediately after a grubber kick from Charles Piutau broke the home side through the Harlequins defence and the loose ball went forwards from a Quins player for Luke Morahan to pick up and add his second of the day. Sheedy failed to add the extras and Bristol led 15-8 with 19 minutes left of the first half.
Following back to back penalties for a high tackle and not rolling away, Bristol were able to extend their lead by three points through Sheedy again, who took the scoreline to 18-8 after 28 minutes.
But Bristol conceded another penalty from the restart, obstructing the play, meaning that Herron had the chance to reduce the gap, which he narrowly missed from out to the right and the sides remained 10-points apart.
Five minutes before the break, Bristol extended their lead after a lineout five metres out saw the Bears drive forward and allowed Chris Vui the chance to stretch over to score. Sheedy’s kick was successful, and Bristol held a 25-8 lead.
Quins pressed well in the final few minutes of the first half, with Scott Baldwin capitalising on the loose ball from the lineout and a great break out wide, but Henry Purdy deliberately knocked on – resulting in the Bristol winger being sent to the sin bin, just before the break.
Marcus Smith was entered into the game at half time, as Paul Gustard looked to overturn the 25-8 deficit from the first 40 minutes through the talented young fly half. The 21-year-old made an immediate impact, after his trademark step set him on his way to gain yards for Quins as part of a promising attack.
However, it was the Welsh fly half Sheedy who added the second half’s first points, slotting a penalty between the posts after 49 minutes to take the score to 28-8.
A few minutes later, Smith fed the ball back inside to Dombrandt who broke through the tackle before the ball found its way out wide to Gabs Ibitoye who produced a brilliant run before giving to Luke Northmore, but the Bristol defence did well to put pressure on Northmore out wide to force the knock on in an attempt to keep the ball in play.
From the Bristol lineout, Chris Robshaw was able to peel away to set Quins off, but the play was pulled back for a Bristol high tackle and Quins had the penalty inside the Bears’ 22. Smith found touch for a five-metre line out, taken well by Glen Young to set up the maul. Dombrandt broke through further tackles before Ibitoye nearly crossed the line out wide after Marcus Smith’s long pass but knocked on and the referee brought the play back for a Quins penalty. Quins opted for the scrum, but Care’s long pass attempt out to Northmore was intercepted by Piutau who kicked the ball into touch in the Quins half, relieving the pressure on the home side.
With seven minutes left on the clock, Quins broke away quickly to catch Bristol out and Aaron Morris spun the ball out to pacey winger Ibitoye who crossed the line, which was backed up by Marcus Smith’s conversion to bring the score to 28-15.
Dombrandt crossed the line in the final play of the game out wide, in an attempt to claim the bonus point, but after a TMO review the try was not given and Ibitoye’s score proved to be the final try of the game with Bristol claiming their fifth straight victory.
Next Sunday, Harlequins face Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium in the Premiership Rugby Cup Final on Sunday 15 March. Quins return to The Stoop on Saturday 22 March, hosting Sale in the Gallagher Premiership. Tickets are available at tickets.quins.co.uk