Bristol 46 Cornish Pirates 33
Playing the league leaders away was always going to be a tough task for the Pirates, but how well they firstly approached this game, and then applied themselves, playing in a positive mode that gained them due plaudits, plus a bonus point, which was the very least they deserved.
What a difference a week makes, the Pirates swapping the wet and the mud of the Mennaye for a sun-bathed Memorial Stadium where a large crowd had gathered for an early 1pm kick-off.
The home side applied pressure from the off and were quick to open their account with a try scored by back-rower Marco Mama in just the fifth minute. Fly-half Nicky Robinson added the extra two points.
Confirming their positive approach to this match the Pirates quickly showed promise to respond, and with No. Laurie McGlone and lock Neale Patrick to the fore they forced their hosts to give a penalty away, enabling fly-half Kieran Hallett the chance to open their account with a kick at goal. He did not disappoint.
It was also clear from early on that this game was one that could entertain throughout, and after Bristol wasted two scoring opportunities wing Kieran Goss sped away and went close to scoring the Cornish side's first try, only to be denied by a tracking down tackle made by Bristol's full-back Auguy Slowik.
Scrum ball to the Pirates gave them an opportunity to set up an assault, and with skipper Aaron Carpenter a leading ball carrier another kickable penalty chance was created. Hallett stepped forward once more and was again on target to make it 7-6.
Many had predicted pre-match that the Pirates would be soundly beaten, and there were inevitable worries when a second converted try for Mama was followed by Bristol's third try, scored this time by flanker Nick Koster.
Full-back Max Bodilly had impressed for the Pirates when making his Championship debut at home to Jersey seven days earlier, and playing now on the road he would impress again. Playing with carefree confidence he made a terrific run that ended with wing Craig Holland going over in the corner. It was a score that immediately lifted the spirits and even impressed Bristol's supporters.
Mama secured his hat-trick and a bonus point for Bristol late in the half, this opening up a 13 points gap, but more initial good play from Bodilly and Goss then set a position from where Carpenter scored a try for the Pirates. To convert from out wide was not easy, but Hallett struck his attempt magnificently, and half-time arrived with the scoreline reading 24-18.
Could the second half entertainment match the first? Yes, it could, and it would! Back-rower Tom Duncan and centre Rheon James, both back with the Pirates after a loan spell at Aberavon, made appearances off the bench, and flanker Alex Cheesman again impressed. The arrival of spring also enabled fledgling backs to blossom once more.
A converted try from Slowik saw 'Bris' extend their lead early in the second half, but again the Pirates bit back when Holland sped in for his second try of the afternoon, to which Hallett added the extras.
Bristol's man-of-the-match Mama notched up his fourth try of the afternoon, a club record for a forward in league games played, but the Pirates still refused to buckle.
Indeed, the team's fourth try, scored by replacement prop Jack Andrew, gave them one bonus point, and with Hallett landing a penalty goal to make it 38-33 they would take two from the match if the score stayed the same.
Also, of course, there was still a chance to deliver a surprise victory, but it was not to be, as a penalty from Bristol replacement Adrian Jarvis, and a second try of the match for Slowik, made it 46-33 at the end.
Scoring 33 points against the league leaders was truly commendable, it the highest figure that Bristol have leaked in games this season.
Speaking after the match, Ian Davies, Director of Rugby at the Cornish Pirates, said: "We felt in the build up that if we kept challenging Bristol then chances would come our way, so huge credit to the boys.
"Taking a bonus point from the game was the least we deserved, and it would worthily have been two but for their late couple of scores.”
Bristol Rugby: 15 Auguy Slowik, 14 George Watkins, 13 Adam Hughes (Jack Tovey 48), 12 Ben Mosses, 11 Andy Short, 10 Nicky Robinson (Adrian Jarvis 57), 9 Luke Baldwin (Ruki Tipuna 48); 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Stuart McInally (Rhys Lawrence 57), 3 James Hall (Gaston Cortes), 4 Ben Glynn (Glen Townson 66), 5 Mark Sorenson (capt), 6 Nick Koster (Ben Skirving 63), 7 Marco Mama, 8 Mitch Eadie.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Max Bodilly, 14 Kieran Goss (Rheon James 45), 13 Tom Riley, 12 Tom Hendrickson (Conner Fullerton 78), 11 Craig Holland, 10 Kieran Hallett, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Kieran Davies (Jack Andrew h/t), 2 Aaron Carpenter (capt, Tom Channon 61), 3 Ben Prescott, 4 Will Carrick Smith (Jake Parker 61), 5 Neale Patrick (Will Graulich h/t), 6 Joe Atkinson, 7 Alex Cheesman, 8 Laurie McGlone (Tom Duncan h/t).
Bristol Rugby – tries: Mama (4), Slowik (2), Koster; cons: Robinson (4); pen: Jarvis.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Holland (2), Carpenter, Andrew; cons: Hallett (2); pens: Hallett (3).
Referee: John Meredith (RFU)