The final scoreline does not accurately tell the story of a match in which little went right for Warriors at misty Ashton Gate.
From losing Nick Schonert before the match through seeing Matt Kvesic stretchered off, having a Tom Howe try disallowed for a controversial knock on decision to losing two men to the sin bin in the last 11 minutes, it was a catalogue of mishaps for Warriors.
The decision to rule out what would have been Howe’s second try of the afternoon and his third in two matches proved to be the most significant setback.
Warriors were only 16-13 down at the time and Billy Searle would have had an easy conversion from under the posts.
But TMO Craig Maxwell-Keys decided to check Oli Morris’s bone-crunching tackle on Siale Piutau which was so fierce that it knocked the ball out the Bristol centre’s grasp. But the TMO decided that Morris had made contact with the ball with a hand before Howe snaffled the rebound and on that borderline decision the match changed complexion.
Instead of leading, Warriors found themselves manning the barricades at the wrong end and were unable to prevent Bristol scoring twice from driving lineouts.
Piutau joined the maul for the first, when Warriors were down to 14 men with Andrew Kitchener in the sin bin.
Warriors were briefly reduced to 13 men when Conor Carey was yellow carded for sacking another maul which referee Ian Tempest decided warranted the award of a penalty try.
The good news is that Kvesic was not as badly injured as first appeared. Although eight medics attended to him as he was carried off on a stretcher it proved to be ‘only’ a severe stinger and the former England flanker was up and about by the end of the match.
Warriors also lost Marco Mama to a groin injury after he had celebrated scoring against his former club with a Chris Ashton-esque dive which meant replacement hooker Beck Cutting had to play in the back row.
Mama’s try, which featured powerful carries from Ethan Waller and Ted Hill, followed Howe’s before the break which Searle conjured from nothing.
But Warriors were also guilty of again not turning hard-won possession into more points and spurning the opportunity to level at 16-16 when a kickable penalty instead went into the corner and the ball was spilled in the maul from the resulting lineout.
Warriors fell behind to two early penalties from Ioan Lloyd, fresh from winning his first Wales cap, inside the opening nine minutes.
Nick David thought he had scored five minute later when Warriors worked the left wing free but a last-ditch tackle bundled him into touch at the cornerflag.
But Warriors stayed patient and built the pressure which brought a kickable penalty which Searle slotted to reduce the deficit, but only for a minute.
From the restart Warriors kicked to clear their lines but that gave Lloyd the chance to counter-attack from deep. Lloyd made ground and then gave Piers O’Connor time and space to gallop over for the try.
Warriors pressured Lloyd whose conversion smacked against the right upright and again showed resilience by hitting back with a well-crafted try of their own.
Searle sparked it with a clever break when there appeared to be nothing on and sent Tom Howe sprinting over.
Mama’s try five minutes into the second half gave Warriors the lead but they held it for only six minutes before Bryan Byrne rumbled over from a lineout drive which was a taste of things to come for luckless Warriors.
Warriors | 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Francois Venter Beck 72), 11 Nick David, 10 Billy Searle (Shillcock 72), 9 Francois Hougaard (Simpson 72), 1 Callum Black (Waller 34), 2 Niall Annett, 3 Richard Palframan (Carey 52), 4 Anton Bresler (Batley 52), 5 Andrew Kitchener, 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Matt Kvesic (Merrick 54), 8 Marco Mama (Cutting 64).
Replacements | 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Conor Carey, 19 George Merrick, 20 Joe Batley, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Ashley Beck.
4m | Lloyd pen 3-0
9m | Lloyd pen 6-0
24m | Searle pen 6-3
25m | O’Connor try 11-3
32m | Howe try 11-8
45m | Mama try 11-13
51m | Byrne try 16-13
69m | Piutau 21-11
70m | Lloyd con 23-13
77m | Penalty try 30-13