Picamoles scores first Saints try in big win at Bristol
Louis Picamoles scored his first try for Saints as they bounced back from the defeat to Bath with a largely commanding 32-10 win at newly-promoted Bristol.
Jim Mallinder’s men were in complete control at half-time thanks to tries from George North, Picamoles and Ken Pisi.
But Saints went from slick to sloppy after the break and Bristol fought back to at least give the home supporters at Ashton Gate something to shout about.
Former Saints hooker Ross McMillan reduced the arrears with a try, but Saints were to have the final say as Mike Haywood scored the bonus-point effort with four minutes left.
Haywood’s effort ended a second period filled with frustration, but Bristol never really threatened to turn the game on its head.
Instead, Saints provided the perfect response to last weekend’s disappointing 18-14 defeat at Franklin’s Gardens.
And they will now head to Saracens on Saturday with six points pocketed from the opening two games of the season.
Bristol had hoped to celebrate last season’s promotion with a first Aviva Premiership win in their opening home game of the season.
But after booting the kick-off into touch, they were on the back foot as Saints used their early possession well, applying pressure to the home defence.
And after attempts to break the line failed, Stephen Myler took the points on offer to put his team in front for the first time this season.
It was all Saints during the early exchanges and with Teimana Harrison and Picamoles battering the Bristol defence, space was starting to open up.
And North used it to great effect as he spotted a gap and darted through to score after a flowing move gave Saints numbers out wide.
Myler missed the conversion and Bristol soon had their first points, with Tusi Pisi landing a routine penalty.
But Saints were knocking loudly at the home door again soon after and a big drive carried them towards the line, with Picamoles applying the finish.
Myler converted to cap a fine first 15 minutes for his side and he was soon adding another penalty to the tally.
A dominant performance was getting increasingly more authoritative by the minute and after Myler landed a crossfield kick in the hands of Ken Pisi, the Samoan skipped past a weak tackle out wide to score.
Myler landed the conversion to make it 25-3 and Saints were now just one try away from the bonus point.
Bristol had given their fans little to shout about, but after winning a penalty in front of the posts they went to the corner in a bid to respond.
However, Saints defended the drive superbly, standing tall and turning the ball over before winning a penalty at the resulting scrum.
Myler was running the show for Saints, with his kicking from hand top quality, while Bristol fly-half Pisi was not having anywhere near the same effect.
After Myler’s clever kick forced Bristol back into their own 22, Saints won possession back and started to turn the screw again, winning two penalties and going to the corner.
Saints thought they had got the bonus point, but the TMO denied them, deeming Dylan Hartley to have fumbled on the line.
Hartley was forced off at half-time with a sore back, with Mike Haywood getting his first minutes of the new season as a replacement.
Bristol were to start the second half with real desire and only a last-ditch Ahsee Tuala tackle stopped Tom Varndell scoring.
The home side were having far more of the ball in the second half and they were to score on 50 minutes as former Saints hooker McMillan powered over.
Pisi converted to cut the gap to 15 points and the home fans were starting to find their voices again, with Saints starting to make errors.
A scrum penalty did provide Myler with another chance to claim points, but his kick from close to halfway drifted wide of the posts.
Bristol still kept plugging away, but Saints had started to boss the game again and after a few near misses, they finally had their bonus-point score.
Haywood was the man who got the try as he made the most of a quick move out to the left and ran in to dot down.
Harry Mallinder, who had come on for George Pisi, kicked the conversion superbly, with Myler nursing a slight knock sustained in the build-up to the try.
Mallinder’s fine effort was the icing on the cake for Saints, who saw the final couple of minutes out to record their first win of the new campaign.
Bristol: Wallace; Edwards, Hurrell, Mosses (Jarvis 70), Varndell; Pisi, Cliff (Williams 66); Tonga’uiha (Traynor 56), McMillan (Brooker 60), Cortes (Perenise 60); Evans (Phillips 53), Glynn; Fisher (Eadie 53), Lam (c), Crane (Robinson 60).
Saints: Tuala (Foden 70); K Pisi, G Pisi (Mallinder 47), Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson (Groom 45); A Waller (Ma’afu 68), Hartley (Haywood 40), Brookes (Hill 62); Lawes, Paterson (Dickinson 56); Wood (c), Harrison (Gibson 70), Picamoles.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys