Stade Francais 16-18 Bristol: Bears on verge of European Challenge Cup knockout stage

Harry Thacker scored the decisive try for Bristol in the 78th minute
European Challenge Cup Pool 4
Stade Francais (10) 16
Tries: Vuidarvuwalu Cons: Sanchez Pens: Sanchez 2, Segonds
Bristol Bears (8) 18
Tries: Capon, Thacker Con: Sheedy Pens: Sheedy 2

Harry Thacker all but guaranteed Bristol Bears a place in the Challenge Cup knockout stage with a late winning try against Stade Francais in Paris.

Waisea Vuidarvuwalu’s try and a Nicolas Sanchez penalty put the hosts 10-8 up at the break after Bristol twice led through a Callum Sheedy penalty and Will Capon try.

Further kicks from Sanchez and Joris Segonds edged Stade further ahead.

Sheedy, however, converted Thacker’s late score to seal Bristol’s win.

Pool 4 leaders Bristol need just one point from their remaining two group games to seal qualification, although with a 10-point lead on second-placed Brive, their safe passage seems a mere formality.

It was a much-changed Bristol that earned the dramatic win at Stade Jean-Bouin, with Charles Piutau and John Afoa two of the eight players rested for the trip following their 37-11 win over the Top 14 strugglers just seven days earlier at Ashton Gate.

The hosts had an early Adrien Lapegue try disallowed for a forward pass and the Bears were again let off when Nicolas Sanchez’s penalty drifted wide before Sheedy put the visitors ahead with the boot.

Vuidarvuwalu’s converted try gave Stade the lead their first-half pressure deserved, but the sin-binning of back-rower Pablo Matera soon after allowed Bristol to edge back in front as Capon was driven over the line by the visiting pack.

Sanchez restored the French club’s lead from the tee before the interval and extended their advantage soon after the restart, although the Argentine was off target with his fourth penalty attempt of the night after Sheedy again made it a two-point game with his second successful kick of a physical encounter.

READ  Hockey: Olympic postponement sees world champions Belgium lose advantage

Segonds looked to have set Stade up for the win with the hosts’ third penalty of the night, but Thacker’s second try in as many game against the Parisians allowed Sheedy to land the winning kick with two minutes remaining.

Stade Francais: Tui; Naivalu, Vuidarvuwalu, Arrate, Lapegue; Sanchez, Hall; Mavinga, Latu, Melikidze, Pyle, De Giovanni (capt), Matera, Chapuis, Francoz.

Replacements: Panis, Futeu, P Alo-Emile, Maestri, Macalou, Coville, Segonds, Danty.

Bristol Bears: Protheroe; Fricker, O’Conor, Bedlow, Leiua; Sheedy, Stirzaker; Woolmore, Capon, Lahiff, Holmes, Joyce, Vui (capt), Heenan, Hughes.

Replacements: Thacker, Lay, Thomas, Hawkins, Hamilton, Uren, Lloyd, Morahan.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion