Bristol Rugby’s hopes of a return to the top flight of English rugby union ended when they failed to overturn Cornish Pirates’ hefty 21-point advantage in the Championship play-off semi-final.
Jon Goodridge with two tries, George Watkins and Will Helu scored for Bristol to give the Memorial Stadium crowd a 19-18 victory to cheer.
But it was not enough to provide an aggregate win to take Bristol into the final – a match they deserved to take part in after an undefeated home campaign.
Even more depressingly, if the Pirates win the final against London Welsh they will not be allowed a place in the top flight as they have failed to find, or build, a ground that meets the Aviva Premiership safety criteria and the 10,000 minimum capacity.
The Pirates took an early lead when Rob Cook struck a penalty inside the opening three minutes. But Bristol hit back almost immediately through Goodridge’s first score of the afternoon.
Trailing 7-10 at the interval and facing a 25-point deficit, Bristol came out for the second fired up and Goodridge went over for his second try.
George Watkins and Will Helu went over as the half went on, with Bristol closing to within seven points overall with two minutes left.
But a Phil Burgess try and Cook’s late penalty proved enough for the Pirates.