By the time Kyle Sinckler crashed over for the winning try in the 81st minute, Warren Gatland’s car was already warmed up to take him back to Wales.
Sinckler’s late score snatched the victory for Bristol but, as far as Lions auditions go, Harlequins No 9 Danny Care had already stolen the show. In a position where Gatland is not blessed with options, Care showed that he could be a surprise selection for this summer’s series against South Africa. His bosses agreed.
‘I’m sure DC could sneak on the tour,’ said Quins coach Adam Jones.
Kyle Sinckler scored a last minute try to secure a dramatic victory for Bristol against the Quins
‘Gats goes pretty left field sometimes and I’m sure he’ll pick on form. If DC’s the form nine in the Britain and Ireland then he’ll go, regardless of his age. DC’s been brilliant… so have Joe Marler and Mike Brown.
‘Browny’s solid, like a Lee Byrne or a Leigh Halfpenny, and is doing some real good stuff, while Joe is one of the best scrummagers in the world.
‘They’re all incredibly professional. They’re not like me when I was 34 and was fat as f***!’
Care’s opportunistic try and drop goal were not enough for the Premiership’s resurgent side. Harlequins have come to life since Paul Gustard’s departure in January, but an upset here at Ashton Gate proved a step too far.
Semi Radradra played a role in all three of Bristol’s first-half tries — scored by Dave Attwood, Fitz Harding and Piers O’Connor — and ran lines with the power to shunt a tanker down the Suez Canal. The home side conceded 15 penalties — as well as an early penalty try when Ben Earl was sin-binned for entering a maul from an offside position.
Joe Marler dominated the scrum, Mike Brown marshalled the backfield and Care stripped the ball out of Earl’s clutches for his side’s second try.
Harlequins’ star Danny Care stole the show with a drop kick and try in front of Warren Gatland
The Lions boss was in the stands and will have been impressed with Care ahead of the Lions tour to South Africa this summer
Marcus Smith was on target from the kicking tee, steering his team to a 12-point lead in the second half, with some help from Care’s drop goal and a sublime try by Joe Marchant.
Bristol clawed their way back with a penalty try in the 76th minute, when Marchant was shown a yellow card for side entry at a maul that was marching towards the Quins try line.
The visitors were turned over trying to run the clock down and, after back-to-back penalties, Bristol had a five-metre lineout in the final play. Sinckler, against his former club, touched down for the score, before Callum Sheedy kicked the conversation to cement Bristol’s place at the top of the table.
Former England winger Chris Ashton was sent off as Worcester suffered a nine-try humiliation in a 62-14 drubbing by Northampton.
Ashton, who had earlier scored his first Warriors try, was sent off in the 49th minute for a no-arms hit.
Saints took full advantage with Ollie Sleightholme running in four tries. ‘That scoreline is not acceptable,’ groaned boss Jonathan Thomas.