Van Straaten picks off wretched Bristol

Leeds 24 Bristol 6
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The Independent Online

It has not been a good weekend for Harlequins. Having lost their Powergen Cup semi-final on Saturday, Leeds presented them with the result they least needed, beating Bristol yesterday to pull five points clear of the multi-coloured jesters at the foot of the Premiership table with a game in hand.

Not that Leeds are in the clear yet, especially as it doesn't help their battle against relegation that only two of their remaining seven games are at Headingley. But if they continue to play with the spirit they showed in defeating a quite dreadful Bristol, it could make for a winner-take-all evening when the Yorkshire side travel to The Stoop on the first Friday in May.

This was a curious game, played in appalling conditions on a pitch which worsens by the week. It was low on entertainment value, even lower in basic skills, though where Bristol were without ambition, Leeds at least gave the impression that the result mattered to them. In front of just 2,034 hardy souls -their lowest Premiership crowd of the season – Leeds scored 10 of their points while Bristol were down to 14 men.

Matt Salter was the first Bristol player to be shown yellow for dumping Braam van Straaten after the Leeds outside-half had kicked ahead. It took the referee, Chris White, three lengthy consultations with his touch judges before determining who had to go. As it had been Andrew Sheridan who was responsible, a case of mistaken identity in an error-ridden match somehow seemed appropriate.

Bristol scored their only points before this incident, Felipe Contepomi hitting a long penalty and following that with a point-blank drop goal. But Van Straaten recovered from Sheridan's blow to kick his third penalty after Craig Emmerson had crossed for the only try of the half.

With the driving rain and howling wind at their backs, Bristol had the opportunity to play the game deep in the Leeds' half after the break, but they made an even bigger hash of that than they had of constructing anything meaningful before the interval.

When Chris Morgan was sin-binned for killing the ball, Van Straaten struck again, this time to even more telling effect. Taking the ball 40 metres out, the big South African shimmied before off-loading to Shaun Woof. The centre rode a couple of tackles before returning the ball to Van Straaten, who chipped delicately into goal for Dan Scarbrough to win the chase for the touchdown. Van Straaten converted before completing his work with a fourth penalty.

"I thought we were outfought and out-passioned," the Bristol coach, Dean Ryan, said. "A lot of cliches come to mind about who wanted to come away with the win. We can't hide behind technicalities – I thought our collective desire to win was appalling, and we need to face that."

Leeds: Tries: Emmerson, Scarbrough Conversion: Van Straaten Penalties: Van Straaten 4 Bristol: Penalty: Contepomi Drop Goal: Contepomi

Leeds: D Scarbrough; C Hall, S Woof, J Mulder, C Emmerson; B van Straaten, S Benton; M Shelley (capt), R Rawlinson, G Kerr, C Murphy (P Murphy, 52), T Palmer, C Mather, D Hyde (J Ponton, 57), I Feaunati

Bristol: J Williams; B Daniel, A Higgins, J Little (capt), P Christophers (D Rees, 56); F Contepomi (S Drahm, 56), R Blake; P Johnstone, N McCarthy (S Nelson, 66), J White, B Sturnham, A Brown, A Sheridan, A Vander (C Morgan, 39), M Salter.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

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