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Bristol Bears begin their EPCR Challenge Cup Pool A campaign away at USAP on Friday night as they look to emulate their 2020 success.
The Gallagher Premiership side lifted the trophy that year but have since spent two seasons in the Heineken Champions Cup, reaching the Round of 16 on both occasions.
USAP returned to the EPCR Challenge Cup last season after a two-year spell in France’s second tier, but failed to advance to the knockout stage.
Bristol are currently bottom of the Premiership with two wins from their first nine games, while USAP are second-bottom of the TOP 14 on four wins from 12.
The game at Stade Aimé Giral kicks off at 20:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on beIN Sports and FloRugby.
🚨 FIXTURES ADJUSTMENT 🚨
Which games will you be watching? 👀 pic.twitter.com/mwKar2a6wH
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) November 3, 2022
- USAP made the fewest unforced dropped balls in the EPCR Challenge Cup last season (six).
- USAP have alternated between wins and losses in their most recent four fixtures in the TOP 14. Prior to this they were on a three-match losing streak. They have only won consecutive fixtures on one occasion so far this season.
- This is the first meeting of USAP and Bristol Bears in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
- Charles Piutau has made more offloads than any other player in the Gallagher Premiership this season (21).
- Bristol Bears centre Sam Bedlow has made seven choke tackles so far in this Gallagher Premiership season – only one player has made more.
- Magnus Bradbury, who has joined from Edinburgh, made more metres in contact last season than any other player in the EPCR Challenge Cup (46).
Match Centre - Preview - Lineups
2020 EPCR Challenge Cup winners Bristol Bears started their 2022/23 campaign in strong fashion with a 19-5 win over USAP at the Stade Aimé Giral on Friday evening.
Full-back Charles Piutau, No.8 Fitz Harding and centre Joe Jenkins all ventured across the whitewash in a scintillating first half display – fly-half AJ MacGinty adding two conversions from the tee.
A late first-half try from USAP lock Shahn Eru gave the hosts a glimmer of hope heading into the second period, but a stout Bristol defence held out to earn the visitors an opening day victory.
‼️ First try of the season ‼️@BristolBears barge across the USAP line 🔥
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) December 9, 2022
On a bitterly cold evening in Perpignan, Bristol opened the scoring after just two minutes when Piutau powered over from close range after Bristol ran through the phases, MacGinty adding the extras.
The English outfit doubled their try tally with 11 minutes on the clock, some quick hands in front of the posts opened space for Harding to dot down, MacGinty again aiming true from the tee to put Bristol up 14-0.
After dominating territory and possession, Bristol added a third try just after the half hour mark as Jenkins scampered down the right flank to cross over in the corner – again the quick-handedness of the visitors proving fruitful.
A spark for the hosts came in the form of an Eru try on the brink of the interval, the second row powering over on the back of a USAP lineout.
USAP commanded the early stages of the second period, but every time they got close to the Bristol try line they committed either a turnover or a penalty, letting their visitors off the hook on multiple occasions.
The hosts continued to press for a route back into the contest, but every time they neared the opposition posts they were repelled by a sturdy Bristol defence.
USAP travel to Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors in Round 2 next Friday in the search of a first victory, while Bristol host Italian opposition in the form of Zebre Parma a week on Sunday.