Yorkshire Carnegie 7 Bristol 23: Harsh lessons as Gavin Henson makes Carnegie pay the penalty

Richard Beck scores Yorkshire Carnegie's try in Sunday's defeat to leaders Bristol. Picture: Steve Riding.
Richard Beck scores Yorkshire Carnegie's try in Sunday's defeat to leaders Bristol. Picture: Steve Riding.
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THE 1992 James hit ‘Born of Frustration’ belted out at Headingley during half-time yesterday and, by the end of another maddening 80 minutes, it must have still been ringing in the ears of Yorkshire Carnegie’s players.

They had a glorious chance to inflict a rare defeat on Championship leaders Bristol and keep in touch with second-placed Doncaster Knights only to be badly undone by their own ill-discipline.

Yorkshire Carnegie's Phil Nilson runs into Gavin Henson, who was on form with the boot for Bristol at Headingley on Sunday. Picture: Steve Riding.

Yorkshire Carnegie's Phil Nilson runs into Gavin Henson, who was on form with the boot for Bristol at Headingley on Sunday. Picture: Steve Riding.

Former Wales fly-half Gavin Henson slotted five penalties to gradually nudge Bristol 15-7 ahead but it was only when Carnegie hooker Phil Nilsen was sin-binned for a senseless late tackle in the 70th minute, that the big-spending visitors truly looked like scoring a try.

They did so from that penalty, kicking to the corner for Jack Lam – the Samoan flanker who turned down European giants Toulouse to extend his stay at Bristol – to muscle over.

Henson added his sixth penalty in injury-time to leave a rather glossy scoreline for his side especially as Carnegie had created the better clear-cut chances.

It is their eighth league defeat but the first to come by more than six points and they were competitive again.

Indeed, such was the home side’s initial control of the first half that Bristol did not even venture into their 22 with possession until the 28th minute.

However, it mattered little given as long as the hosts conceded penalties in striking distance, Henson kept gathering points.

The Welshman had done so when Carnegie were pulled up for failing to release in the 23rd minute – that offence happened at least three times in the first period – and he slotted another soon after.

Henson’s third, coming after a needless infringement from Nilsen, saw Bristol take a 9-7 lead three minutes before the break and the British Lion even attempted another from seven metres inside his own but that fell wide. That said, Carnegie should have had a second try when Kevin Sinfield’s lovely inside ball set Jonah Holmes free.

The full-back was eventually hauled in and saw possession ripped – falling straight into the hands of winger David Doherty, who duly scooted over only forreferee Darren Gamage to decree Holmes had fumbled and disallowed the 33rd-minute effort.

Carnegie were authoritative early on, giving Bristol no time to settle, and they were fully deserving of the game’s first score.

Although the visitors had successfully defended their first driving line-out, they were exposed when the hosts shifted the ball wide to the left.

Tom Varndell had little option other than to delibrately knock on Andy Forsyth’s pass as the centre tried to unleash two unmarked colleagues outside him.

Former England winger Varndell was rightly yellow-carded and Bryan Redpath’s men reaped immediate dividends.

Bristol infringed at the line-out and scrum-half Chris Pilgrim showed real speed of thought to take a qucik tap and send Richard Beck – impressive at blindside flanker – barging over from close range. Sinfield converted but they could not build on that and Henson slowly made them pay.

There was plenty of spirit from Carnegie, illustrated when Seb Stegmann did brilliantly to track back and deny Jack Wallace after a Bristol break, and Harry Leonard impressed at inside centre.

Sinfield made a half-break, too, that should have furnished a score just after the hour but Chris Jones spilled at the vital moment and they were similarly frustrated at the death when Chris Walker broke but Pilgrim’s final pass to Forsyth was judged forward.

They have dropped to fourth now, just behind Bedford Blues on points difference, and if positions stay the same over the last five remaining league games, they would face Bristol again in the play-off semi-finals.

Learn some lessons from this experience and they would still fancy their chances of success.

Yorkshire Carnegie: Holmes; Stegmann, Forsyth, Leonard (Casson 78), Doherty (Graham 74); Sinfield (Hodgson 72), Pilgrim; Beech (Boyce 63), Nilsen, Tideswell (O’Donnell 51) , Schofield (Ryder 51), Jones, Beck, Saull (C Walker 64), Burrows.

Bristol: Morgan; Varndell, Tovery (Wallace 54, Mosses, Lemi (Amesbury 76) ; Henson, Roberts (Cliff 78); O’Connell (Ford-Robinson 78), McMillan (Jones 46), Ford-Robinson (Perensie 51) , Evans (Sorenson 53), Joyce (Phillips 76), Lam, Robinson (Phillips 57 BB Robinson 63), Eadie.

Referee: Darren Gamage