Nine-try Bristol demolish rivals

Bristol 68 Exeter 15
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The Independent Online

All things being in order Bristol should take their place in the Premiership next season after settling their own promotion debate with a nine-try demolition of their nearest rivals, Exeter, that left them six points clear at the top of National League One.

All things being in order Bristol should take their place in the Premiership next season after settling their own promotion debate with a nine-try demolition of their nearest rivals, Exeter, that left them six points clear at the top of National League One.

"It would be silly to let the title slip now," said Bristol's head coach Richard Hill, whose team still have to negotiate a tricky run-in against Rotherham, Bedford, Orrell and Otley.

But Hill was thrilled with the open, running rugby displayed by his team. "That's the way rugby should be played and we would dearly love to take that brand up with us into the Premiership," he said.

It was an anti-climax for the National League's biggest ever crowd, of 10,349. Much had been expected of Exeter, although the home fans will have been pleased to have witnessed a record Bristol score in this division - their previous highest victory being 66-28 against Nottingham earlier this season.

Bristol's Argentina international centre, Manuel Contepomi, completed a hat-trick in the last quarter. The Exeter replacement wing Ed Lewsey scored two consolation tries very late on, but his side were truly disappointing.

They had been pretty well blown away by half-time, which was remarkable considering how much possession and territory they enjoyed. They were also better organised up front.

Their driving and rigorous rucking, which frequently got them to within striking distance, should have produced something more than a solitary penalty. But they had also made the lion's share of the penalty infringements. There was also a dreadful tendency for them to turn over possession, particularly inside the Bristol 22.

The centre pairing of the Fatialofa brothers, Mark and Junior, was a ferocious combination and the howls from the crowd when the latter stiff-armed the flying Bristol winger Sean Marsden suggested that the referee Tim Beddow had got it wrong when he showed the burly Samoan only a yellow card.

Marsden had sent the home fans wild with a 70-metre dash down the right in the 19th minute, shimmying outside, inside and out again before crossing for Bristol's second try.

The hooker Saul Nelson had stormed down the same wing in the sixth minute, after the full-back Bernardo Stortoni launched an attack from Exeter's first turnover in their opponents' 22.

The most bizarre try was scored by the replacement centre Sam Cox, who executed a pretty pirouette in the tackle to skip untouched to the line on the stroke of half-time.

The second half saw Bristol step up to gale force with Luke Nabaro's superb 42nd-minute try. The lock Ed Pearce then did an impression of a shire horse to gallop through. On the hour Argentina took over, Contepomi and Stortoni adding four more tries to Bristol's haul.

Bristol: Tries Nelson, Marsden, Cox, Nabaro, Pearce, Contepomi 3, Stortoni; Conversions Strange 6, Gray; Penalties Strange 3. Exeter: Tries Lewsey 2; Conversion Yapp; Penalty Yapp.

Bristol: B Stortoni; S Marsden, R Higgitt (S Cox, 26), M Contepomi, L Nabaro; J Strange (D Gray, 66), H Martens (R Blake, 61); A Clarke, S Nelson (N Clark, 58), D Crompton (D Hilton, 40), E Pearce, J Brownrigg (O Hodge, 58), M Salter (capt; C Short 25-37; 58), J El-Abd, R Martin-Redman.

Exeter: S Ward; A Murdoch (G Staniforth, 78), J Fatialofa, M Fatialofa (G Kingdom, 60), S Kepu (E Lewsey, h-t); T Yapp, H Thomas; D Porte (K Brooking, 60), S Blythe, G Davis; C Bentley (N Ross, h-t), Rob Baxter (capt); M Gabey (A Walker, 22), G Willis, Richard Baxter.

Referee: T Beddow (Gloucestershire).

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