Premiership: Bristol Bears claim first league victory since September as they win at Harlequins

Bristol Bears claimed only their third win of the Premiership season as they edged Harlequins 15-12 in awful conditions at the Twickenham Stoop.

First-half tries from Harry Thacker and Gabriel Ibitoye were added to by a conversion and penalty from AJ MacGinty, as Bristol held on in the second half to win.

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Josh Bassett and Cadan Murley went over for Harlequins, Tommaso Allan converting the latter, as they missed the chance to go second on the Premiership table.

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Despite relentless pressure from the hosts, who dominated just about every metric other than the scoreboard, the Bears stood firm through a mighty defensive performance that produced its finest moment in the final two minutes.

Andre Esterhuizen appeared to be racing in the decisive try only for MacGinty to tap tackle the South Africa centre before Tom Whiteley dislodged the ball from his arms as he slid over the line.

It protected Bristol’s slender lead that looked sure to be overturned once wing Murley had plundered a brilliant try with 23 minutes left amid a half of one-way traffic.

Joe Marler could face disciplinary action after instigating a significant scuffle that ignited when he provoked Bristol openside Jake Heenan, who was clearly incensed by what the England prop had said.

Bears captain Steven Luatua urged Karl Dickson to take action and while the referee declined, revenge came when Ibitoye produced a powerful finish soon after to extend the interval lead to 15-5.

Bristol’s win came without Ellis Genge, who was attending the birth of his second child, and reversed the recent trend of falling to fightbacks staged by their opponents from London.

Semi Radradra made an early impression, although not for the dynamic running skills that have been lost to the Bears for most of the season because of a knee injury.

First a tackle on Will Evans ended the openside’s afternoon inside the opening minute and then another challenge left Allan needing treatment.

By the end of the first quarter it was a try apiece with Thacker crossing to finish a line-out maul before Quins replied when Bassett slid over with centre Esterhuizen prominent in the build up.

Bristol led 10-5 through MacGinty’s kicking but the hosts were engineering all the attack, Joe Marchant almost touching down after leaping high to collect a Danny Care kick.

The steady drizzle that had fallen for the opening 30 minutes intensified but Quins still looked to stretch the visitors’ defence with Esterhuizen particularly effective.

Dickson spoke to captains Alex Dombrandt and Luatua after the packs clashed for the second time in quick succession.

It was Bristol who were awarded the penalty and they used it well, striking off the line-out through Ibitoye who stepped inside and showed power to score.

Ibitoye produced a try-saving tackle on Care in the left corner as Quins made a rousing start to the second half that gathered momentum as they hammered away at the Bristol line.

Only courageous Bears defence was keeping them at bay but it finally cracked in the 58th minute when Care hoisted a kick to Murley and the wing used footwork and a burst of acceleration to beat three tacklers.

It was becoming easier to play without the ball as the rain lashed down, but still the hosts pressed for the try and their prospects improved when Ibitoye was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Esterhuizen.

Esterhuizen was then stopped in dramatic fashion with seconds remaining as Bristol celebrated victory, but the entire second half had been one long act of stubborn refusal to concede.