Full-time: Ulster Ravens 8 Bristol Rugby 14
BRISTOL Rugby are on the verge of qualifying for the last eight of the British & Irish Cup after a spirited victory over Ulster Ravens in difficult conditions in Belfast.
Bristol took the lead through George Watkins in the second minute and added a penalty try in the second half, before the Ravens hit back late on to set up a nervy finale.
But a key tackle by Ulsterman David McIlwaine on Chris Colvin on one wing, before Tristan Roberts bundled Neil Walsh into touch on the other, allowed Bristol to secure victory.
Liam Middleton's men are now four points clear of Ulster with one match to play in Pool One - and even a losing bonus point at home to Cardiff next weekend would be enough to take them into the last eight, regardless of how Ulster fare in Bridgend.
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Bristol led 14-3 at one stage - and, had that been the final margin, they would already have booked their place in the quarter-finals. But Ulster's late try has left them waiting to secure their progress, which should be sealed at the Memorial Stadium next Sunday.
Winger Watkins gave Bristol the ideal start when, after Ulster had lost a line-out deep in their own territory, the ball was worked wide via McIlwaine and Jack Tovey to Watkins, who finished coolly. Jarvis converted to make it 7-0 inside the opening three minutes.
Ulster then lost prop Adam Macklin to a knee injury that was serious enough to see him carried off the field on a stretcher, while Bristol continued to enjoy the better of the territory and possession.
Jarvis missed a penalty, while Niall O'Connor made no mistake to ensure Bristol's lead was cut to 7-3 at the break, but Bristol resumed strongly after the break.
Referee Johann van der Merwe awarded the visitors a penalty try after Ulster infringed at a couple of close-range scrums, with Jarvis adding the conversion to make it 14-3.
Bristol then lost flanker Marco Mama to the sin-bin for pulling down a line-out, while the hosts' Michael Heaney and Neil Walsh both rightly had tries ruled out.
Home lock James Simpson did go over from close range, though, to set up a tense final few minutes. And Bristol were relieved when O'Connor inexplicably chose to kick the ball wide, rather than pass, in the dying seconds - with Roberts tackling the recipient of the kick into touch.
Ulster Ravens: B McIlroy; N Walsh, S McCloskey (S Morrow 50), N O'Connor, R Scholes (C Colvin 68); S Olding, M Heaney; R Lutton, N Annett (capt; N Brady 50), A Macklin (A Warwick 9), A O'Connor, J Simpson, C Joyce, A Birch, J McMahon (N Faloon 45-50 & 66). Reps not used: J Donnan, J Creighton.
Scorers: Try – Simpson. Pen – N O'Connor.
Bristol: J Tovey; G Watkins, M Tagicakibau (T Roberts 53), L Eves, D McIlwaine; A Jarvis, J Grindal (capt); K Traynor (M Lilley 41), R Johnston (R Lawrence 60), J Hobson (W Thompson 66), B Glynn, G Townson, M Mama, J Merriman, M Eadie. Reps not used: M Sambucetti, R Pennycook, R Tipuna.
Scorers: Tries – Watkins, penalty try. Cons – Jarvis (2).