We’ve been treated to some terrific rugby over the Christmas period, with the Gallagher Premiership seeing its fair share of upsets and some nail biting finishes. No more so than the colossal battle portrayed at the Stoop this evening.
With Bristol plodding along towards the bottom of the table, and no league wins since September, it was expected to be a simple task for current high flyers, Harlequins. With the noise from the Stoop drowning out any rain that may have spoilt this game, the hosts were ready to dish out a thrashing.
The script writers had a different thought in mind however, and changed the narrative almost immediately following kick off. Flanker, Will Evans, left the field in the first minute after suffering a nasty a head injury. This clearly shook the home side, as handling and set pieces started to take a battering.
Bristol on the other hand displayed some of their best attacking play of the season, leading them to end the first half 5-15 up.
The second half saw a different Quins side with increased pace and precision, leading to Caden Murley scoring Harlequins second try of the game. Despite the increased pressure, Bristol held on for a well deserved and hard worked victory, one that has come very much needed as the season enters the new year.
It was in the final moments that Quins came closest to scoring. The ever impressive Andre Esterhuizen was on the end of a well worked set move, which saw Oscar Beard slip through the gap before putting the ball into the giant South African’s hands.
It appeared as if the 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) centre was through to score the winner, before Bristol fly half AJ Maginty produced the tap tackle of the season. Esterhuizen lost his balance and proceeded to slide towards the try line, before eventually losing control and knocking the ball forwards, resulting in a Bristol scrum.
Following the scrum, the Bears won a penalty and were able to play out a 12-15 win.
Can you believe it? 😯
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 27, 2022
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) December 27, 2022
A much needed win for Bristol saw them rise above Bath in the table, in a week that has also seen important wins for fellow strugglers Newcastle and London Irish.
The season has approached the halfway mark, with the table separating second and eleventh place by just 14 points. It will be a hard ask to predict how the second half of the season will end.