Bristol 18 Saracens 3: Saracens crack under pressure to lose touch at the top

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The Independent Online

A clear gap has emerged at the top of the Guinness Premiership after Saracens went down to a second defeat in seven days at Bristol yesterday leaving them in fourth place and nine points adrift of leaders Gloucester. Sarries were hoping to get back into winning form after a last-gasp 22-19 home defeat by Newcastle last Sunday. And, with talk of a multi-million pounds investment from a South African company, keeping up with the league pace-setters was crucial.

Bristol needed to put behind them the dire display at Kingsholm last Saturday, where they were beaten 27-0 by Gloucester and at half-time they were leading 10-3 after Saracens had taken the lead through a penalty from fly-half Glen Jackson before opposite number Jason Strange replied in kind.

But, after 22 minutes, Bristol scored the first try. An attacking line-out was taken at the tail by lock Roy Winters and a rumbling drive sent a ruck over the Saracens line with flanker Joe El Abd touching down, and Strange converting. Bristol had other try chances but could not execute the final deliveries.

Sarries tried in vain to break through the home defence. However, Bristol wound up the gears and the pressure saw Sarries infringe at a ruck and Strange put over the penalty.

The Saracens centre Kevin Sorrell was sin-binned for an infringement at a ruck and, after some more intense pressure, the full-back Luke Arscott rounded off a move on the left for his side's second try of the match.

Although Strange was off target with his conversion, that touchdown just about finished Sarries off despite the director of rugby Alan Gaffney's attempt to bring new momentum to his team with a string of replacements. The victory also drew Bristol away from the battle at the basement of the Premiership.

Bristol: Tries Salter, L Arscott. Conversion Strange. Penalties Strange 2. Saracens: Penalty Jackson.

Bristol: L Arscott, T Arscott, Higgitt, Brew, Lemi, Strange, O'Riordan, Clarke, Regan (Linklater, 72), Crompton (Hobson, 57), Winters, Hohneck, Salter, El Abd (To'oala, 63), Blowers.

Saracens: Russell, Penney, Sorrell, Farrell, Ratuvou, Jackson, de Kock, Aguero, Ongaro (Mercey, 65), Visagie, Jack, Fullarton (Ryder, 67), Gustard, Hill (Powell, 65), Skirving.

Referee: M Fox (RFU).