GKIPA Championship

Ealing Trailfinders 27 Bristol 28

By John Harding at Vallis Way

IF Bristol thought that their last home game against Bedford Blues was scary, then the tranquillisers needed to be on hand at Vallis Way on Saturday evening with the result likely to have a big impact on the race for promotion to the Aviva Premiership.

Bristol went into the game nine points clear of the GKIPA Championship's second-placed Ealing Trailfinders but the hosts, known for the strength up front, not only wanted to reduce that gap but also to keep their unbeaten home run this season intact.

In the end, it was Bristol who came away with the try-scoring bonus point victory but a Morgan Allen's first Championship try, converted by Luke Daniels, three minutes from time earned Ealing a well deserved losing bonus point.

Head coach Pat Lam said that his was more proud Bristol's character than relieved come the final whistle because the opponents always raise their game when they come against his side but they want to be the first to capture the leader's scalp.

Lam added: "Ealing place is a tough place to come and the amount of working we put ahead of this game but that preparation has got us there. To score four tries and get the bonus point is massive and I couldn't be more proud of them.

"Without a doubt, it was the toughest test that we have faced this season but every game produces different challenges. In the context of this game, because they wanted to close the gap on us, meant Ealing had a lot to play for.

"So for the boys to respond the way they did, being under pressure at different times - similar to the Bedford game, is going to hold us in good stead as we grow as a club. This ain't a game about individuals, it's about teamwork and which team is going to be tougher."

It will be a day to remember for tighthead prop James Lay who was drafted into the starting line-up replacing Gaston Cortes (calf) for his debut at the start of a two-month loan from the Bay of Plenty.

But it was marred because he was one of three players to spend time in the sin-bin after his retaliation with a punch when Casson, who was also shown yellow, had made an illegal tackle after Bristol back row Steve Luatua had just vacated the sin-bin.

Not incidents resulted in Bristol conceding scores - a penalty try from the Luatua incident and Daniels' three points when the penalty was reversed after the two sets of forwards had a rumble in the driving rain.

Bristol skipper Tusi Pisi, converted by fly-half Ian Madigan, had opened the scoring only for the hosts to level things when a cross-field kick allowed wing James Cordy-Redden to step inside full-back Jordan Williams to score and Daniels add the extras.

The visitor's second try came while Luatua was off the field when lock Sam Jeffries burst through a slack defence. Madigan adding the conversion and the extras to the third try in the opening minute of the second half with fans barely back in their seats.

Jordan Williams raced 55 metres down the right to touchdown and, after Daniels was just short with a long-range penalty attempt, followed that with a second touchdown outwide with the conversion striking the far upright to bounce over the bar.

Bristol now have a 13-point advantage at the top of the Championship table with seven games to play starting with Saturday's trip to the Athletic Ground in Richmond to face eleventh-placed London Scottish, kick off 3 pm.

Ealing Trailfinders scorers - tries: J Cordy-Redden, M Allen, pen try; cons: L Daniels 2; pen: L Daniels; dg: A Penberthy,

Bristol scorers - tries T Pisi, S Jeffries, J Williams 2; cons: I Madigan 4

Teams. Ealing Trailfinders: L Daniels; W Harries, L Jones, J Munro, J Cordy-Redden: A Penberthy (P Lydon, 73) L Carter; J Gibbons (W Davis, 49), A Walker (M Cornish, 55) L Thiede (M Tampin, 55), B Maddison (L Jones, 71), H Casson, K Murphy, R Smid, M Bright (c) (M Allen, 66) Reps (not used): D Grant Adamson, Yellow card: H Casson (39-49)

Bristol: J Williams; L Morahan, S Piutau, T Pisi (c), A Leiua; I Madigan ( B Searle, 76, R Williams; R Bevington (S Tonga’uiha, 49), J Harris-Wright, J Lay (S Faletau, 61), J Batley (J Joyce, 45), S Jeffries, S Luatua, D Thomas (J Lam, 66), N Haining.

Reps (not used): N Fenton-Wells, A Uren.

Yellow cards: S Luatua I27-37), J Lay (39-49)

Referee: L Pearce (RFU)