Bristol win at last
Bristol snapped their eight month Guinness Premiership win drought with a come-from-behind 14-13 victory over Northampton.
Last Updated: 16/11/08 5:31pm
Bristol snapped their eight month Guinness Premiership win drought with a come-from-behind 14-13 victory over Northampton at the Memorial Ground.
Ed Barnes converted replacement centre Luke Eves' 69th minute try to seal the result and bring an end to a run of 11 successive league defeats stretching back to March.
Bristol remain bottom of the table but are now just one point behind reigning champions and fellow strugglers Wasps.
Number eight Dan Ward-Smith scored a close-range try in the first half, which Adrian Jarvis converted, while centre James Downey touched down for Northampton, with fly-half Stephen Myler slotting two penalties and a conversion.
Myler had the chance to be Saints' hero but his long drop-goal attempt drifted agonisingly wide with the game's final kick.
Bristol were boosted by the return of former England scrum-half Shaun Perry, who featured in their match-day squad for the first time this season after recovering from shoulder surgery.
Northampton went into battle without England hooker Dylan Hartley, Scotland forwards Euan Murray and Scott Gray, plus injured wing Sean Lamont, but there was no obvious sign of disruption.
Myler landed a penalty to give Saints the lead in the 12th minute, just reward for a strong opening by the visiting pack.
Jarvis sacrificed a kickable penalty for territory, but Bristol gained their reward when Ward-Smith touched down under a pile of bodies in the 20th minute.
The conversion was added by Jarvis, yet Bristol lacked the confidence to build on their lead and were stung by a well-worked Saints touchdown within three minutes.
Quality approach work by the visitors, with backs and forwards linking effortlessly in attack, ended in style as Downey - who started the move - went over.
Myler kicked the extras, and although Bristol enjoyed a degree of territorial control approaching half-time, Northampton held on for a 10-7 interval advantage.
With Bristol needing a spark, Perry was sent into the fray for Graeme Beveridge just 12 minutes into the second period.
Errors had started to mount up on both sides, with a missed Myler penalty the closest either team came to scoring during a disappointing 15-minute spell.
Saints full-back Ben Foden's counter-attacking skills meant he was a constant threat to the Bristol defence, and a second Myler penalty saw Northampton move six points clear.
Saints last won away in the league when they beat Leicester 10-9 in February 2007, but they entered the closing 10 minutes in control and looking good to end that miserable run.
Bristol though, conjured a try out of nothing when Eves - son of former Bristol captain Derek - sliced through Saints' defence and sprinted 30 metres unopposed.
Barnes' angled conversion put the hosts one point in front and left them with the task of closing out the victory.
It was a task they performed with a degree of expertise, although Northampton could only kick themselves after poor play by Ashton destroyed a promising counter-attack, and then Myler narrowly missed the target.