Bristol Rugby fell to a 19-33 defeat to Harlequins in an entertaining affair at Cleve RFC on Saturday.
In the opening pre-season fixture of the campaign, Pat Lam’s side scored three tries as Sam Jeffries, Ross McMillan and Reiss Cullen went over for the home side.
Lam will have learned a lot about his squad with sixteen debutants getting game-time, including 17 year-old Bristol Grammar School student Charlie Powell.
Harlequins raced into an early lead when Tim Visser intercepted a long pass to scamper over from halfway, with Tim Swiel slotting the extras.
Bristol Rugby had two gilt-edged opportunities to draw level, as Ryan Edwards and Rhodri Williams both went close, but it was the visitors who stretched their advantage before the half hour mark.
This time, Tim Swiel reacted quickest to snatch a second intercept of the first period, running in from his own 22 to leave Bristol 0-14 adrift at the interval.
Bristol Academy U18s winger Charlie Powell and Mat Protheroe were among a raft of half-time replacements for the hosts and it was Protheroe’s superb solo break that took Bristol into the 22 and, shortly after, Powell’s fine pass that resulted in a try.
Powell and triallist Aaron Chapman combined well down the outside channel, before Sam Jeffries rumbled over from close range for an unconverted score.
With the rain lashing down, Bristol took a stranglehold of the game and added a quickfire second when Ross McMillan – back from a lengthy injury lay-off – muscled his way across the whitewash from the driving lineout, while Callum Sheedy converted.
But Harlequins extended the led to seven points as Ross Chisholm capitalised on Alofa’s line break to dab down over the whitewash for an unconverted score.
With less than ten minutes remaining, Reiss Cullen darted between defenders to slide over for a try, converted by Ian Madigan, drawing Bristol level at 19-19.
In the closing stages, Charlie Walker rounded his marker to go in under the posts for Harlequins, before referee Craig Maxwell-Keys awarded a penalty try in the final play of the game as the visitors ran out 19-33 winners in front of over 2,000 supporters at Cleve RFC.
Reiss Cullen’s quick thinking resulted in a close-range try which brought Bristol level at 19-19, before two late tries gave Quins the advantage at the full-time whistle.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Mat Protheroe provided flashes of brilliance on his club debut, including a scything fifty metre break early in the first period which handed Bristol the attacking initiative.
Soane Tonga’uiha, Jason Harris-Wright, Gaston Cortes, Joe Joyce, Joe Batley, Nick Fenton-Wells, Olly Robinson, Nick Haining, Alex Giltrow (trialist), Jack O’Connell, Ross McMillan, Sione Faletau, John Hawkins, Joe Latta, Sam Jeffries, Dan Thomas, Jordan Crane, Tyler Gendall, Jack Cosgrove, Chris Brooker, Jordan Williams, Mat Protheroe, Ryan Edwards, Aaron Chapman (trialist), Jack Tovey, Matt Welsh, Sam Bedlow, James Newey, Tom Varndell, Charlie Powell (Academy U18s), Billy Searle, Callum Sheedy, Ian Madigan, Reiss Cullen, Ryan Glynn, Rhodri Williams.
Ross Chisholm, Charlie Walker, Alofa Alofa, James Lang, Tim Visser, Tim Swiel, Charlie Mulchrone, Mark Lambert, Dave Ward (c), Phil Swainston, George Merrick, Charlie Matthews, Archie White, Luke Wallace, Jack Clifford, Bill Harding, Lewis Boyce, Josh McNulty, Ben Glynn, Stan South, Dino Lamb, James Horwill, Calum Waters, Jake Hennessey, Harry Sloan, Cadan Murley.