A fighting performance at the Memorial Stadium just failed to win a share of the spoils for Rotherham Titans.
They scored two second half tries by hooker Tom Cruse and centre Juan Pablo Socino but conceded another penalty late in the match.
After a poor first half display during which Rotherham let in three tries and at one stage were reduced to 13 men only after forwards Mark Tampin and Barney Maddison received yellow cards, they recovered strongly after trailing 23-9 at the interval.
Although Bristol added a fourth try early in the second half, Rotherham’s pack controlled much of the possession and with their backs threatening, they were the better attacking team after the break.
The fightback was launched by hooker Cruse, who sprinted through several defenders to score an outstanding try on 48 minutes and with Socino converting, Rotherham had cut the Bristol lead to 30-16.
The game as a contest came alive ten minutes later when Socino scored a try after being put into space by scrum half Charlie Mulchrone, and following Socino’s conversion of his own try, Rotherham were back in contention at 33-23.
The Argentinean continued to be highly influential as the Titans pressed hard in Bristol’s 22.
Bristol, one of the favourites to win the Championship and regain their place in the Premiership, were shocked again as Socino put over his fourth penalty on 66 minutes.
Rotherham were now behind by only 33-26 and as they were dominating territory, the least they could expect was a losing bonus point.
However, on 79 minutes, the Titans were penalised again.
Bristol’s replacement fly half Adrian Jarvis, was just as accurate as the number 10 he had come on for Tristan Roberts who had earlier punished Rotherham’s indiscipline by striking three penalties.
Jarvis’s goal prevented Rotherham leaving the Memorial Stadium with a point which their efforts deserved, and there will not be many games in Socino’s career when he finishes on the losing side having scored 21 points - a try, two conversions and four penalties.
On reflection, the Titans lost their third Championship game in eight because of a sloppy first half in which they handed the initiative to Bristol who went on to score three tries on 15,20 and 27 minutes.
Rotherham also gave away too many kickable penalties which a goal kicker of Roberts’ ability was only too glad to accept.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Broadley, Roberts, Socino, Keating, Hodgson, Mulchrone, Gadd, Cruse, Tampin, Maddison, Sanderson, Williamson, Birch, To’oala. Replacements: Preece, Quigley, Hislop, Freeman, Pearce, White, Gill.
Tries: Cruse, Socino; conversions: Socino 2; penalties: Socino 4.