A young Connacht Eagles (sponsored by NUI Galway) team fought hard for a try-scoring bonus point when going down 50-34 to Bristol at Ashton Gate this afternoon.

It was a high tempo British & Irish Cup Pool 1 opener with 12 tries scored in total. Connacht Eagles claimed four of them with captain Eoghan Masterson (2), Fionn Carr and Caolin Blade all crossing the whitewash.

Inside centre Shane O’Leary, who had a fine day with the boot, landed a ninth minute penalty for the Eagles in front of a partisan 7, 640-strong crowd.

But Bristol seized control with two quick-fire tries from flanker and man-of-the-match Olly Robinson and hooker Chris Brooker, who capped his first start for the club by going over in the corner.

Despite the best efforts of Nigel Carolan’s side, the hosts were in a commanding position when leading 33-6 at half-time with the bonus point already in the bag.

A second O’Leary penalty was followed by tries from Bristol centre Luke Eves (24 minutes), Robinson (35) and right winger Ryan Edwards (39), with out-half Adrian Jarvis adding two conversions.

The Eagles had prop JP Cooney sin-binned for repeated infringements before the break, but they made a promising start to the second half when number 8 Masterson burrowed over from close range and O’Leary converted.

Brooker completed his brace from a lineout maul before returning Connacht lock Andrew Browne saw yellow for the visitors, and ex-Leinster back Darren Hudson soon followed him off the pitch for a deliberate knock-on.

There was some great attacking from both sides, and the Eagles showed their battling qualities once more when hitting back with converted tries from Masterson (59), who powered over on a short drive, and winger Carr (62).

Having shown their finishing skills, the westerners were now back within touching distance of Bristol at 38-27 and just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

However, the English outfit made certain of victory when number 8 Marco Mama dotted down from a close-in scrum and then Robinson scored his third try of the day in the 74th minute.

The Eagles gained some late consolation thanks to replacement scrum half Blade who sniped through for a last-minute try which secured their bonus point. O’Leary’s conversion completed his 14-point personal tally.

Carolan’s men are back in action next Sunday afternoon when they welcome Pontypridd – 23-17 first round winners over London Scottish – to the Sportsground (kick-off 2.30pm).

Bristol Rugby: Jack Wallace; Ryan Edwards, Luke Eves, Mark Cooke, Charlie Amesbury; Adrian Jarvis, Craig Hampson; Kyle Traynor (c), Chris Brooker, James Hall, Ben Glynn, Glen Townson, Nick Koster, Olly Robinson, Marco Mama.

Replacements: Rhys Lawrence (for Chris Brooker, 71 mins), Ellis Genge (for Kyle Traynor, 54 mins), Joe Joyce (for Marco Mama, 70 mins), Josh Ovens (for Nick Koster, 48 mins), Luke Baldwin (for Craig Hampson, 71 mins), Jack Tovey (for Adrian Jarvis, 54 mins), Darren Hudson (for Luke Eves, 48 mins).

Connacht Eagles: Dave Panther; Ciaran Gaffney, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, John Cooney; JP Cooney, Pat O’Toole, Jamie Dever, Andrew Browne, Danny Qualter, Stephen McVeigh, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (c).

Replacements: Jack Dineen (for Pat O’Toole, 70 mins), Jacob Walshe (for Jamie Dever, 77 mins), Ultan Dillane (for Stephen Mcveigh, 66 mins), Cian Romaine (for James Connolly, 32 mins), Caolin Blade (for John Cooney, 60 mins), Conor Mckeon (for Miah Nikora, 60 mins), Dwayne Corcoran (for Dave Panther, 75 mins).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse

Attendance: 7, 640

Man of the Match: Olly Robinson



All you need to know: Connacht v Munster