Bristol condemned to the drop
London Irish have beaten Bristol 38-21, thus ensuring relegation from the Guinness Premiership for the west country side.
Last Updated: 04/04/09 5:44pm
London Irish have claimed a bonus-point 38-21 Guinness Premiership victory against Bristol, a result which has confirmed relegation for the west country side.
With two matches of the regular season remaining, Bristol could have been dealt a stay of execution depending on the result at Sixways.
However, Worcester's 22-8 victory over Saracens instead condemned them to National One for the first time since 2003.
A 41-21 loss to Irish opened the trap door that year and the Exiles were just as irrepressible at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
Scott Linklater and David Lemi gave Bristol initial hope, which had disappeared by the time Luke Eves also grabbed a late consolation score.
England lock Nick Kennedy and winger Adam Thompstone scored two tries each for the home side, while Steffon Armitage and Paul Hodgson also crossed in a result that has strengthened Irish's play-off claims.
Their finishing was vital, however, given the fact they also squandered 19 points through goalkickers Tom Homer, Delon Armitage and Seilala Mapusua.
Irish immediately showcased their trademark attacking game and, despite having number eight Chris Hala'ufia sin-binned for a swinging arm, they set up a chance for Sailosi Tagicakibau, who spooned a potentially try-scoring pass into touch.
Homer kicked a penalty but Bristol were soon on the front foot with some inventive attacking play topped by Tom Arscott's brilliant long-range pass to Lee Robinson.
The latter was halted inches short of the line but, following a five-metre scrum, hooker Linklater smashed his way through the Irish defence, with Arscott converting.
Mike Catt was then replaced by Peter Hewat but the Exiles scarcely felt the former England fly-half's absence as they once again took control.
Luke Arscott's last-gasp tackle prevented Thompstone from crossing but Irish could not be denied in the 33rd minute, when Kennedy strolled in at the left corner.
Another Exiles try then looked certain but Paul Hodgson was hauled down by another last-ditch tackle.
Free-running Irish continued their onslaught with Armitage collecting James Hudson's pass and galloping over.
A Homer penalty placed the Exiles 16-7 ahead at the break and when play resumed they were quickly back in their stride.
An overhead pass from scrum-half Hodgson did the necessary damage, with quick hands finding Kennedy out on the wing - the lock burrowing over from close range.
Bristol briefly offered their fans hope they could hit back when substitute Lemi scored an interception try, with Arscott kicking the extras.
However, Thompstone scored for Irish just four minutes later and when Hodgson slipped over from close range in the 73rd minute it was all over for the visitors.
Thompstone then added a second before Eves ran in the last try of the match - Arscott converting.