Full-time report: Rotherham Titans 23 Bristol Rugby 16
BRISTOL Rugby slipped to a third successive Championship defeat – but they produced a much-improved performance in going down with a losing bonus point at Clifton Lane.
After defeats against Leeds and Moseley, Liam Middleton's team responded positively in the early stages at Rotherham – and were hugely unfortunate to trail 10-6 at the break after bossing the opening stages.
The turning point in the match came on the hour mark, when Bristol prop Kyle Traynor was yellow-carded for not rolling away from a tackle, and Rotherham took immediate advantage of their extra man, forcing a penalty try after dominating a series of close-range scrums.
Bristol have now lost four of their six Championship games so far this season and have fallen way off the pace – even as far as a top-four place goes - going into their two-week British & Irish Cup break.
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Bristol led 6-0 after half-an-hour through two Matthew Jones penalties, only for Garry Law to halve the deficit for Rotherham with a penalty on 35 minutes.
Bristol were the better side before the break, but were dealt a killer blow when, on 39 minutes, Alex Rieder went over following near-misses from Eamonn Sheridan and Ross Davies. Law converted to give the hosts a 10-6 half-time lead.
Bristol responded 12 minutes after half-time when David McIlwaine stepped inside to score, with Jones' conversion giving the visitors a 13-10 lead.
Law kicked his side level – and then prop Traynor's sin-binning turned the tide in Rotherham's favour. Bristol put Luke Eves into the scrum but Rotherham overpowered them, as they did for much of the afternoon, eventually forcing a penalty try after several penalties.
Law converted, and then landed a penalty to give his side a ten-point advantage, but Bristol at least salvaged a bonus point when Tristan Roberts' long-range effort in the 78th minute found the middle of the posts.
Rotherham: G Law (capt); E Sheridan, L Blackett, P Nonu, P Homan; J McKinney, J Williams; S Cahill (J kilbane 78), D Baines (T Stagg 35), R Davies, B Maddison (T Freeman 49), D Sanderson, A Rieder, C Kirwan, R Pitman. Reps not used: G Denman, M Doneghan, M Whitehead, C Mulchrone.
Scorers: Tries – Rieder, penalty. Cons – Law (2). Pens – Law (3).
Bristol: D McIlwaine; M Tagicakibau, L Eves, B Mosses, B Rennie; M Jones (T Roberts 75), R Tipuna (J Grindal 72); K Traynor, T Channon (W Tanner 67), B Douglas (W Thompson 67), M Sambucetti, B Glynn (G Townson 53), R Winters, I Grieve (capt), M Eadie (M Lilley 61-72). Rep not used: S Uren.
Scorers: Try – McIlwaine. Con – Jones. Pens – Jones (2), Roberts.
Sin-binned: Traynor (60-72, not rolling away from tackle).
Referee: J Meredith. Att: 1,060.