|Bristol (6) 16|
|Tries: Penalty try Pens: Sheedy 3|
|Saracens (6) 12|
|Pens: Goode 4|
Bristol climbed to second in the Premiership with a narrow victory over Saracens as both sides made their return to action following the five-month long coronavirus lockdown.
Already-relegated Sarries looked set to edge a drab kicking contest when they led by Alex Goode’s four penalties to fellow stand-off Callum Sheedy’s three.
But Bristol were awarded a late penalty try with just four minutes left.
And, with Jamie George sin-binned, there was no way back for the visitors.
Even after the England hooker had been yellow-carded – for preventing a try by coming in from the side of a ruck to put fellow hooker Harry Thacker into touch – Sarries could have sneaked it.
They finished the contest with 14 men against 14 after the game’s second late sinbinning, Bristol replacement prop Max Lahiff.
But Sarries wasted a late penalty opportunity – the last of 30 awarded in the contest – when camped on the Bristol line.
Bristol had earlier had a 54th-minute try chalked off from Bristol winger Luke Morahan for blocking in the build-up.
England prop Kyle Sinckler, flanker Ben Earl and former Leinster hooker Bryan Byrne all made their first Bears appearances from the bench.
George captained Sarries and Goode filled in for England skipper Owen Farrell, while Elliot Daly was also out injured, but the visitors did have a number of their international stars playing, including , both Vunipola brothers, Maro Itoje and Vincent Koch.
Saracens boss Mark McCall revealed afterwards that Farrell, who has a slight thigh issue, should be in line to return for next Saturday’s Premiership appointment with Harlequins.
Bristol boss Pat Lam:
“It wasn’t beautiful weather but, if we want to be where we are going, you have to get excited by playing how you have to play.
“Things like the weather were in Saracens’ favour with the pack they had picked, and we didn’t have as much time on the ball.
“But our defence and our scrummaging were huge. Credit to our coaches for that. The boys gutsed it out. We hung on in there in the end.
“Good teams when they need to defend, they defend. Everyone knows us for our attack – but we want to get our defence right, too.”
Saracens rugby director Mark McCall:
“It is always frustrating to come out the wrong side. But it was a game that could have gone either way.
“Our attitude was good, out physicality and energy was good.
“But our set-piece wasn’t good enough and we had countless chances five metres from their line.
“Owen Farrell has a very minor strain, so there is a good chance he will play next week.”
Bristol Bears: C Piutau; Morahan, Radradra, S Piutau, Purdy; Sheedy, Randall; Woolmore, Byrne, Afoa, Attwood, Vui, Luatua (capt), Thomas, Hughes.
Replacements: Thacker, Lahiff, Sinckler, Holmes, Earl, Uren, Lloyd, Leiua.
Sin bin: Lahiff (80,
Saracens: Maitland; Lewington, Morris, Socino, Segun; Goode, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Hunter-Hill, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Woolstencroft, Mawi, Clarey, Kpoku, Reffell, Davies, Hooley, Obatoyinbo.
Sin bin: George (76, entering from the side to prevent try)