Bristol's Best of days

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The Independent Online

Bristol boosted their hopes of a European Cup place by duly condemning Bedford to a second successive relegation play-off, but they will have to step up at least one more gear to make sure of a top five finish. Bob Dwyer's side scored nine tries to three but encounters with their remaining opponents, London Irish, Leicester and Saracens, are sure to be less relaxing than a sunny afternoon at Goldington Road.

Shorn by injury to half backs Agustin Pichot and Henry Honiball, as well as Dean Ryan and Simon Fenn from the back row, Bristol still had too much for the basement battlers of Bedford. While they missed Pichot's invention, Garath Archer soared unchallenged in the line out, and the back three of Lee Best, Spencer Brown and David Rees had too much class out wide, each being rewarded by two tries.

Bristol began intent on dramatically reducing their large points difference deficit to Saracens, scoring the game's first try inside three minutes, but then struggled to pull clear until snatching two tries in the closing minutes of the half.

Bedford might have had more than two touchdowns of their own but for dropped passes at crucial moments. Paul Sackey was the first culprit, spilling Dave Edwards' pass and kicking frustratedly into the hands of Best, who sparked a counter that earned Bristol an attacking line out.

Andrew Sheridan demonstrated why Dwyer rates him the most powerful man in the Premiership by battering over from close range.

However Bedford quickly rallied with Duncan Hughes sending Dan Harris in under the posts, only for Andy Gomarsall to fluff the conversion. At the other end, Brown then knocked on while gathering his own chip over the line, but made swift amends by switching wings to put the visitors 10-5 up after 24 minutes.

Best extended the lead with Bristol's third try after Barry Williams had done the initial damage, but Sackey replied in kind when at last holding a pass on the half hour, Gomarsall converting for 12-17.

That was as close as Bedford got, as Brown and Best grabbed their second tries before the break following good work by Rees and Adam Vander respectively. Rees got his reward in the second half, sailing over for his first try from Gareth Baber's pass.

Sheridan then stretched over for his second score before Matthew Back's effort, converted by Steven Vile, brought up Bristol's half century. Sackey sprinted over to become the fourth double try scorer before Rees had the final word by completing his brace. For both teams their seasons will go right to the wire.

Bedford: S Stewart (C Richards, 73); P Sackey, A Murdoch, D Harris, A McLean (G Trulove, 50); D Hughes, A Gomarsall (Captain); A Olver (P Beal, 77), M Kwisiuk (A Davis, 55), V Hartland, C Eagle (D Sims, 55), D Zaltzman, J Cockle, M Webber (F Rossigneux), D Edwards.

Bristol: L Best (M Back, 71); D Rees, E Simone, J Mayer, S Brown; S Vile (G Bowen, 75), G Baber (Captain); P Johnstone, B Williams, P Lemoine (L Gerrard, 59), G Archer, A Sheridan, S Morgan, A Vander (C Short, 66), A Charron (C Evans, 78).

Referee: C Rees (London)

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