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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Bristol hit rock bottom

London Irish 41-21

Bristol feel the pain of their defeat
Bristol feel the pain of their potentially final defeat

Mark Mapletoft inspired London Irish to a relegation dogfight victory which preserved their Zurich Premiership status and left trouble-torn Bristol Shoguns on the bottom of the table.

The 31-year-old stand-off justified his selection ahead of regular fly-half Barry Everitt by contributing 16 points with a faultless display of place-kicking.

And he was also the springboard for a superb attacking performance which provided tries for Irish hooker Naka Drotske, centres Rob Hoadley and Geoff Appleford, wing Paul Sackey and full-back Michael Horak.

I believe someone will pick up what is left and bring Bristol back into rugby because there are too many people who are too passionate about it.
Peter Thorburn
Bristol coach

But while the Exiles' Premiership survival was assured well before full-time, Bristol's future is shrouded in uncertainty.

The merger which will effectively see them swallowed up by Bath is still on the agenda and, with Division One champions Rotherham's promotion still to be ratified, the relegation battle could still turn out to have been a phoney war.

London Irish 41
Tries: Drotske, Hoadley, Appleford, Sackey, Horak
Cons: Mapletoft 5
Pens: Mapletoft 2
Bristol 21
Tries: Short, Lipman
Con: Drahm
Pens: Drahm 3

Bristol began seeking salvation on the pitch rather than in the committee room as they built a 10-0 lead inside the first quarter-hour.

Full-back Shane Drahm kicked a penalty and converted flanker Craig Short's try, but by the end of the half the momentum was all with Irish.

Mapletoft created a score for Drotske, and although Drahm added another penalty for Bristol, the Exiles scored 17 game-breaking points in the closing seven minutes of the half.

Hoadley stepped his way over to score at the posts before Sackey sent in Appleford, Mapletoft converting both tries and adding a penalty in between.

I disagree with relegation, but it's the rules. If you finish bottom you go down
Conor O'Shea
London Irish chief executive

After the break, Sackey touched down his own kick ahead and Horak raced through a huge gap in the closing minutes to snuff out any hopes Bristol had of clawing back a bonus point for a narrow defeat.

Felipe Contepomi ensured Bristol bowed out in style by superbly crafting a consolation try for flanker Michael Lipman.

But when the Shoguns players emerged to thank their loyal fans, they were doing so for what could possibly be the final time.


London Irish: Horak; Sackey, Appleford, Hoadley, Barrett; Mapletoft, Martens; Worsley, Drotske, Hardwick, Strudwick, Casey, Danaher, Dawson, Sheasby.
Replacements: Thrower, Everitt, Kennedy, Flavin, Roche, Hatley, Halford.

Bristol: Drahm; Rees, Higgins, Gibson, Christophers; Contepomi, Pichot; Sheridan, Johnstone, Bergamaschi, C Morgan, S Brown, Short, Lipman, Oakley.
Replacements: Skuse, Nelson, Styles, S Morgan, Shaw, Carrington, Hodgson.

Referee: Tony Spreadbury (RFU)




Zurich Premiership table
Saturday 14 May
    P PD PTS
1 Leicester 22 342 78
2 Wasps 22 119 73
3 Sale 22 71 60
4 Bath 22 41 58
5 Saracens 22 -44 57
6 Gloucester 22 -80 47
7 Newcastle 22 -121 47
8 Leeds 22 -51 43
9 Worcester 22 -128 42
10 London Irish 22 -43 40
11 Northampton 22 -63 40
12 Harlequins 22 -43 38

SEE ALSO
Bath stay up at Bristol's expense
10 May 03  |  Photo Galleries

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