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Match Report: Northampton Saints 27-33 Bristol Bears

Northampton Saints fell to a narrow defeat in their first home game of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership season as Bristol Bears edged a high-scoring encounter.

Tom Seabrook, playing his first Premiership game at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens as a Saint, bagged a brace of tries inside the first 15 minutes either side of a Magnus Bradbury five pointer for the visitors.

A pair of Callum Sheedy penalties sandwiched Tom Pearson scoring Saints’ third try of the first period. But an 11-point lead was cut to just one by the break as Callum Sheedy kicked a second penalty and Bradbury secured a stoppage time try.

Tommy Freeman struck early into the second half to secure a try-scoring bonus point but Max Lahiff and Harry Thacker tries and a third Sheedy penalty built Bristol a lead that was cut by Smith’s late kick to set up a grandstand finish – however Saints came up just short, taking the consolation of two match points from the defeat.


Saints flew out of the blocks, pushing into Bristol’s 22 quickly before deft hands opened up space out wide, with James Ramm feeding Seabrook to finish cooly in the corner.

Bristol got themselves up and running after 11 minutes, attacking from close range off a lineout before a gap opened up for Bradbury to dive through. 

Seabrook scored his second try of the afternoon – and his sixth in as many games – as Ramm again turned provider for the prolific winger as he muscled his way through Bristol’s defence to dot down.

Smith’s second conversion put Saints 14-5 up until Sheedy added three to Bristol’s tally from the tee. 

Bristol lost Gabriel Ibitoye to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on with 20 minutes played and Saints made their extra man count immediately. Tom James put Pearson through a gap in Bears’ line and the flanker raced clear to score Saints’ third. 

Three more from Sheedy’s boot took the score to 19-11 with two minutes to play in the first-half and Bristol would close the gap to just a point before the half-time whistle blew – sending Bradbury over for his second from close range, with Sheedy adding the conversion. 


Saints were back on the scoreboard less than a minute after the restart, with Smith scooping up loose ball and grubbering through for Freeman to chase. The winger still had work to do but controlled the ball superbly with his feet before winning the final foot race to score. 

But the game was back within a point moments later after a driving maul saw Bears’ Lahiff over before Sheedy added the conversion and a further penalty from the tee gave Bristol a four-point lead.

Saints found themselves down a man as Graham was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Bristol made them pay instantly, sending Thacker over at the base of a driving maul and putting Bears 33-24 up.

Smith closed the gap with a penalty and a Rory Hutchinson break set pulses racing for a late winner, but despite a sustained period of pressure in the Bristol 22, a killer score couldn’t be found.


SAINTS: 15 Ramm, 14 Seabrook, 13 Litchfield, 12 Hutchinson, 11 Freeman, 10 F Smith, 9 James; 1 E Waller, 2 Langdon, 3 Davison, 4 Moon, 5 Coles, 6 Scott-Young, 7 Pearson, 8 Graham (c).
Replacements: 16 R Smith, 17 A Waller, 18 Millar Mills, 19 Lockett, 20 Munga, 21 McParland, 22 Grayson, 23 Garside.

BEARS: 15 Lane, 14 Heward, 13 Vakatawa, 12 van Rensburg, 11 Ibitoye, 10 Sheedy, 9 Randall; 1 Woolmore, 2 Thacker, 3 Lahiff, 4 Dun, 5 Batley, 6 Harding (c), 7 Thomas, 8 Bradbury.
Replacements: 16 Capon, 17 Grahamslaw, 18 Kloska, 19 Caulfield, 20 Heenan, 21 Marmion, 22 Williams, 23 O’Conor.

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