Andy Robinson watches on as Bristol Rugby beat Rotherham Titans with bonus point to reclaim top-four Championship place
Bristol Rugby 30 Rotherham Titans 20
BRISTOL – albeit aided by Doncaster and London Scottish – returned to the top four of the Championship after a confident bonus-point victory over Rotherham.
With Andy Robinson - who will be confirmed as Bristol's new director of rugby on Monday - watching from the executive boxes, Bristol scored four tries to Rotherham's two to climb up the table.
George Watkins went over in the first half to help Bristol into an 11-0 half-time lead, before Ryan Edwards crossed after the break. Bristol’s dominant scrum then earned them a penalty try, before Luke Eves wrapped up the victory and the bonus point with a late score after Rotherham had rallied.
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With Doncaster surprisingly beating Leeds, and London Scottish perhaps even more surprisingly winning at Cornish Pirates, Bristol’s win saw them return to the play-off places with seven games to go in the regular season.
Bristol led 11-0 after a scrappy first half, in which they dominated territory and possession.
Rotherham rarely escaped from their own half during the opening 40 minutes – and Bristol could have been further ahead than the 11 points they managed through two Adrian Jarvis penalties and Watkins’ try.
The winger went over after good work from Jarvis, Alafoti Faosiliva and Edwards to score for the seventh time in his last nine appearances.
Rotherham, with problems at both scrum and line-out, changed their entire front row at half-time – and they scored their first points of the afternoon through a Garry Law penalty on 49 minutes.
But Edwards soon extended Bristol’s lead – after visiting lock Dan Sanderson had seen yellow for tripping Ruki Tipuna – when he took Eves’ clever inside pass and got to the line.
Bristol’s forward power then earned them a penalty try following a couple of close-range scrums – and at 25-6 it appeared plain-sailing for Liam Middleton’s side.
But Rotherham rallied, scoring through replacement Joe Ellyatt, who finished off a lengthy run from Mike Doneghan just minutes after entering the field.
Fly-half James McKinney scored a second Rotherham try, with Doneghan again the provider, as the home defence was again stretched – but Eves went over in the corner from Jack Tovey’s pass in the 78th minute to give Bristol the extra point.
Bristol: J Tovey; G Watkins, F Otto (T Roberts 71), L Eves, R Edwards; A Jarvis, J Grindal (capt; R Tipuna 50); K Traynor (B Douglas 60), R Johnston (R Lawrence 76), G Cortes (W Thompson 50), M Sambucetti (B Glynn 50), G Townson, A Faosiliva (M Mama 60), R Pennycook, M Eadie.
Scorers: Tries – Watkins, Edwards, penalty, Eves. Con – Jarvis (2). Pens – Jarvis (2).
Rotherham: G Law (capt); M Doneghan, E Sheridan, L Blackett (P Nonu 64), P Homan; J McKinney, C Mulchrone (J Williams 68); M Gadd (J Kilbane 41), H Hannan (T Stagg 41), R Davies (G Denman 41), B Thomas, D Sanderson, T Freeman, C Kirwan (L Makaafi 57), A Rieder (J Ellyatt 64).
Scorers: Tries – Ellyatt, McKinney. Cons – Law (2). Pens – Law (2).
Sin-binned: Sanderson (51-62).
Referee: M Carley. Att: 4,504.