Strange deepens Leeds crisis

Bristol 32 Leeds 6
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The Independent Online

Bristol brushed aside an ineffective challenge from bottom-placed Leeds at the Memorial Ground yesterday in a match which had plenty of relegation implications, even allowing for the fact that the Premiership season is only one third completed.

Bristol, who many thought to be prime candidates for the drop, were ferocious in the tackle, fierce at the scrum and finished with a flourish to move up to eighth in the table. It was a performance which had Bristol's head coach Richard Hill purring with pleasure. "This was hugely important for us," he said. "To start with we were tetchy, nervous, but this had big implications for us. It was a superb win."

Jason Strange, Bristol's capable outside-half, had an almost flawless afternoon with his place-kicking, converting both Bristol's tries and banging over six penalties. The only shot Strange failed with hit an upright and after David Lemi drove for the line from the rebound, Justin Marshall was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball.

If the Tykes continue to play with such a tangible lack of enthusiasm, they face a season or two in National League One. In most phases they were disjointed, if not dismal, and by the end they were thoroughly dispirited after a thorough going over from the Bristol pack

If the crowd of 7,648 were seeking entertainment they were in for a disappointment. To be fair to Bristol, at least they attempted to play an expansive game whenever the opportunity arose. In Strange and Shaun Perry they possessed two players who, if they believe in nothing else, have a sense of how to accumulate points. When Marshall was foolish enough to offer the referee Dave Pearson a piece of his mind, Leeds were marched back 10 metres for Strange to collect another three points.

Gordon Ross got Leeds on the board with a penalty, but Strange added two more before Ross completed Leeds' scoring with a second penalty. Bristol then made their superiority count when Perry broke free and fed Vaughan Going. Perry took the return pass to put Lemi in at the corner. Strange converted and Bristol went in 19-6 to the good.

Two more Strange penalties followed and then Roy Winters barged over in the corner. It was hardly strange that Strange converted.

Bristol: Tries Lemi, Winters; Conversions Strange 2; Penalties Strange 6. Leeds: Penalties Ross 2.

Bristol: V Going; B Lima, R Higgitt, S Cox, D Lemi; J Strange, S Perry; D Hilton, M Regan (N Clark, 73), D Crompton, R Winters, G Llewellyn, M Salter (capt; R Martin-Redman, 66), J El Abd, G Lewis.

Leeds: R de Marigny; D Rees (D Care, 55), R Vickerman, A Snyman, D Doherty; G Ross (C Jones, 61), J Marshall (capt); K Lensing, G Bulloch (R Rawlinson, 61), R Gerber, C Murphy, T Palmer, S Morgan, R Marks, J Crane (N Thomas, 61).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

* Saracens grabbed a share of the points at the Recreation Ground yesterday, but they will be wondering how they did not claim a victory after a 12-12 draw with Bath. The home side were under the cosh up front for most of the game and had to rely on a drop goal from their debutant wing Michael Stephenson to edge them ahead with 15 minutes remaining. The Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson levelled the scores with an angled penalty on 78 minutes but he was off target with two drop goal attempts in injury time which would have clinched victory.