Improved performance by Bristol's youngsters as they fall to Saracens
BRISTOL Academy manager Mike Hall praised the character of his Under-18s side, despite their 41-14 defeat to Saracens at Clifton Rugby Club.
Bristol went down six tries to two in their final RFU Under-18s league fixture, with tries from centre Lucas Slowik and replacement Jacob Spence.
Hall was pleased with his players' reaction to Monday night's defeat at Bath, but feels they created the chances to run Saracens a lot closer than they eventually did.
He said: "In the week we spoke about putting in a performance that we can be proud of and I think we did that today. The boys worked hard today, played some good positive rugby and created a lot of chances. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish all of them.
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"Take away the interception try and the try straight from the kick-off, and the scoreline would've been a lot closer. But if you make mistakes at this level you get punished, and that's what happened today. But I can't fault the effort and character of the boys, and we can be proud of our performance today."
Bristol fell behind early on to a try from wing Nathan Earle, who was first to react to a quickly taken penalty just five yards from the Bristol line to score in the corner.
But the home side drew level just minutes later as the powerful Slowik blasted his way through the Saracens defence to touch down under the posts. Fly-half Tom Francis added the extras from in front of the posts.
Saracens retook the lead minutes later with a penalty, before two quick tries extended the visitors advantage before the half-time break. Hooker Sam James crashed over from close range following a long period of pressure from the London club, and a swift handling move lead to another score in the right-hand corner.
Bristol dominated the early exchanges in the second half – fly-half Francis in particular, impressed with some slick distribution. But handling errors in the final third prevented any addition to the scoreboard.
Saracens, coached by former England World Cup winning flanker Richard Hill, then added a fourth try to put the game far beyond the reach of Bristol's battling youngsters; with the impressive Nick Tompkins intercepting the ball on half-way and showing a sharp turn of pace to outrun the covering defence.
But Mike Hall's side hit back with a second try of their own; replacement Spence ended a prolonged period of Bristol dominance with a smart pick and go just yards from the line, Francis again added the conversion.
Two further tries from the Premiership club gave the score-line a rather one-sided appearance, but it was far from representative of the home side's effort against a strong opposition.
Flanker Ellis Genge carried well throughout and was a nuisance at the breakdown and centre Slowik continued his fine season with another strong display in midfield.
The defeat means that Bristol end their campaign without a win, but can be proud of a display of this nature.