Bristol head coach Mark Tainton upbeat despite defeat to Northampton
Bristol head coach Mark Tainton declared his side's losing bonus point as "massive" after a stirring performance almost produced a shock victory at Northampton.
Six points in the last seven minutes eventually saw Saints shake off a revitalised Bristol to register a 32-26 win and their first home five-pointer of the season.
But the point means bottom-placed Bristol have now collected nine in their last three games to suddenly put the Aviva Premiership relegation battle back on the agenda and leave them just one behind Worcester.
It was 26-26 before Stephen Myler kicked a penalty with seven minutes to go and Harry Mallinder extended the lead with a drop goal, but Bristol clung for a deserved point after tries from Mitch Eadie and Jason Woodward, who also booted 16 points.
Tainton said: "It is a massive point. It is down to us, we can't rely on other people and we will just try to improve each week and concentrate on what we are doing.
"The team have got belief now and with that comes confidence. When you have got confidence you can achieve anything and we nearly achieved something special this evening. We have got the point, we are disappointed we didn't get more, but we will take that with where we are.
"We played some really good attacking football and our defence was solid. We were probably second best in the breakdown at a number of occasions, and it allowed Northampton to pinch ball and get them field position again. If you allow Northampton field position they will eventually score points, but I am proud of the performance.
"The boys played exactly how we asked them to play it, and that was to attack that wide channel and get on the outside of them. Late in the game we scored a superb try by Jason Woodward by going wide in our 22, and then we maybe got a little bit loose rather than playing field position, but I am never going to say to the guys 'stop playing rugby'.
"A lot of credit goes to Dwayne Peel in attack, he has got them playing a fluent style of rugby and the distribution and handling has got a lot better in the last month or so."
Northampton's tries came from Mikey Haywood, JJ Hanrahan and Louis Picamoles, who put in one sensationally powerful run to set up Tom Wood for another try, while Myler kicked nine points.
Saints first-team coach Alan Dickens said: "There was an air of frustration afterwards, but we will take the win.
"When we scored our third try there was a time where we thought we were going to go away from them and then we lost the ball about 30 metres from their line, it might have been Alex Waller, and from the resulting scrum they had the chip-kick and scored under our posts.
"Credit to Bristol, they are a much-improved team from the one we beat in the second game of the season. Fair play to the job Mark Tainton has done over recent weeks.
"They have picked a more mobile team and Woodward is an addition for them, plus they are getting the best out of Tom Varndell, they looked to feed those two today and it nearly paid off."