League leaders Bristol were forced to dig deep against a stubborn Cornish Pirates side at the Memorial Ground as Ian Davies` side pushed them all the way in a Championship thriller, writes Dick Straughan.
On a fast pitch and in sunny conditions the Pirates stood toe to toe with the promotion favourites and traded points-scoring blows until home full-back Auguy Slowik seized on a loose ball with two minutes to go, before diving over the line for his team's seventh try.
Kieran Hallett had pegged Bristol back with two penalties after Marco Mama had scored the first of his four tries after just six minutes, before Bristol pushed on in an end to end first half with further tries from Nick Koster and Mama.
Four minutes before half-time Max Bodilly launched a blistering attack for the Pirates racing 50 metres before putting Craig Holland in to score in the corner. The Bristol response was immediate with Mama completing his hat-trick but the Pirates struck again in injury time.
Skipper Aaron Carpenter broke free of a tackle five metres from the line after more good work from Bodilly and Kieran Goss barged over the line for his team's second try. Hallett converted from a difficult angle to cut the Bristol lead to 24-18 at half-time.
Slowik added to the home advantage just after the restart following a quick tap penalty but Bodilly was again instrumental, this time with Tom Kessell, in creating a third Pirates try and second of the game for Holland.
Mama added his fourth try on 52 minutes before excellent phase play and a patient build-up created a touchdown for Jack Andrew as the Pirates sealed a four-try bonus point.
Hallett struck a penalty on 74 minutes to cut the deficit to five at 38-33 but an accidental offside from the restart allowed Adrian Jarvis to slot a simple penalty.
Then with time almost up Bodilly failed to field Ruki Tipuna`s horribly bouncing grubber kick and Slowik sealed the Bristol win.
Bristol: Slowik, Watkins (Tovey 49), Hughes, Mosses, Short, Robinson (Jarvis 57), Baldwin (Tipuna 49); Traynor (Lawrence 57), McInally, Hall (Cortes 45), Glynn (Townson 65), Sorenson (capt), Koster (Skirving 63), Mama, Eadie
Tries – Mama (4), Slowik (2), Koster
Cons – Robinson (4)
Pen – Jarvis
Cornish Pirates: Bodilly, Goss (James 45), Riley, Hendrickson (Fullerton 78), Holland, Hallett, Kessell; Davies (Andrew h/t), Carpenter (capt) (Channon 61), Prescott (Davies 61), Carrick-Smith (Parker 65), Patrick (Graulich h/t), Atkinson, Cheesman, McGlone (Duncan h/t)
Tries – Holland (2), Andrew, Carpenter
Cons – Hallett (2)
Pens – Hallett (3)
Referee – J.Meredith (RFU)
Attendance – 5,035