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Ravens Take Two Points From Bristol Loss

Ravens Take Two Points From Bristol Loss

Ulster Ravens came away from the Memorial Ground with two hard-earned bonus points thanks to a last-minute try from replacement lock James Simpson.

Bristol, who won the British & Irish Cup in 2011, stormed into an early lead as flanker James Merriman finished off an enterprising attack in the fifth minute.

Tristan Roberts missed the conversion and his opposite number Stuart Olding was off target with a penalty on the quarter hour.

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Ulster Ravens opened their account shortly afterwards. Ricky Andrew, having gathered a high ball, injected some pace into a 16th minute move as he burst clear.

Roger Wilson was on hand to collect a pass from the young full-back and barge over from close range for a try that Olding converted.

But the Ravens' lead was shortlived as Roberts struck an angled penalty goal just a minute later. The home out-half tagged on two more penalties before the break to give the former champions a 14-7 buffer.

The Ulstermen went closest to scoring a second try before the half-time whistle. Recent senior debutant Michael Allen raced through into space, only for Merriman to floor him with a textbook tap tackle.

The Ravens got their second half off to the perfect start when winger Chris Cochrane was put clear by a clever inside pass as Bristol's defence was unlocked with deft precision. Replacement Niall O'Connor added the extras.

The action was coming thick and fast now in this Pool 1 clash and the 4,003 spectators present were treated to some terrific running rugby from both sides.

Bristol scrum half and captain James Grindal snapped back the lead for his side by gobbling up his own kick through to score. His half-back partner Roberts converted for a 21-14 scoreline.

Another high quality back-line move set up number 8 Wilson for his second try of the afternoon in just his second game of the season in Ulster colours.

The fit-again Ireland international powered over from close range with O'Connor's conversion bringing the visitors level again.

But Bristol found an extra gear to score 13 unanswered points between the 65th and 78th minutes. It was the critical period of the match as Roberts banged over two more penalties and converted a late try from replacement Iain Grieve.

The Ulstermen were stung by those scores but showed their mettle by rallying for what could prove to be a vital try come January when the quarter-finalists are confirmed.

With seconds left on the clock, Ballynahinch clubman James Simpson burrowed over from close range and O'Connor coolly fired over the conversion.

The seven-pointer right at the death ensured the scoreboard reflected just how little there was between these two sides.

It may have been their first defeat in the competition, but Ulster Ravens will take heart from gaining two bonus points on the road and racking up 28 points against highly-rated opposition.

The Ravens now lie second in the pool table with six points. Bristol lead the way on eight points with Bridgend on four and Cardiff, who are the province's next opponents in December, pointless at the bottom of the standings.

Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)