Bristol 18 Llanelli scarlets 11: Blowers crowns in-form Bristol's storming start

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The Independent Online

Bristol followed up three wins out of their last four Guinness Premiership outings with their best performance of the season to beat the Llanelli Scarlets in their opening EDF Energy Cup game at the Memorial Stadium.

The home side made eight changes from the side that beat Leeds last weekend in the Premiership and included England World Cup scrum-half Shaun Perry in his first game for his club this season. Scarlets made six changes, with Irish international flanker Simon Easterby back to lead the side having also returned from World Cup duty. The Magners League side, losing finalists in this competition two seasons ago, included young fly-half Rhys Priestland, who kept his place in front of Welsh international half-back Stephen Jones.

It was Priestland who put the visitors in the lead after just five minutes with a 40- metre penalty, but Bristol were quickly back on level terms through fly-half David Hill.

The Scarlets looked set to score a try in the right corner through second row Vernon Cooper but, after consulting with the television video match official, referee Tim Hayes ruled he had put a foot in touch after a Perry tackle. The referee was quick to exert his control of the game, punishing any dissent after his decisions. He marched Bristol back 10 metres into their own half, but Scarlets could not take advantage.

Perry gave an awkward pass to wing Lee Robinson, who juggled the ball before embarking on a swerving run for the line but full-back Morgan Stoddart dragged him into touch just short. Robinson was rewarded for efforts minutes later from a move started from a scrum in front of the posts. The ball was worked out for him to step inside to score.

Bristol increased their lead on the half hour after opting for a series of scrums close to the line when awarded penalties. Finally they set up a driving maul with No 8 Andrew Blowers getting the touchdown to which Hill to added the extras.

Jones, on as a half-time replacement for Priestland, and Hill exchanged penalties in the opening five minutes of the second half.

With 15 minutes to play Bristol were reduced to 14 men with centre Neil Brew sent to the sin bin for an infringement at the tackle, but the Scarlets, despite being camped in the Bristol 22, failed to capitalise on the extra man.

On the stroke of full-time Stoddart, taking a flicked pass from centre Regan King, crashed over the line for the Scarlets' only try, but it was nothing but a consolation score.

Bristol: Tries Robinson, Blowers; Conversion Hill; Penalties Hill 2. Llanelli Scarlets: Try Stoddart; Penalties Priestland, Jones

Bristol: Arscott; Robinson, Brew, Higgitt, Morgan; Hill, Perry; Clarke (Hagan, 66), Blaney (Linklater, 59), Crompton; Llewellyn, Hohneck; Budgett, El Abd (capt), Blowers.

Llanelli Scarlets: Stoddart; M Jones, King, G Evans, Watkins (James, 40); Priestland (S Jones, 40), Peel; John (Douglas, 51), Hayter (Rees, 40), Manu, Cooper, Eustace (MacLeod, 51), Easterby (capt), Edwards (Popham, 51), D Jones.

Referee: T Hayes (WRU)