Leeds Carnegie head coach James Lowes was upbeat despite his side losing their opening game of the British and Irish Cup at Bristol.
A young Leeds side, including six debutants, led for the majority of the game thanks to tries from Jake Armstrong and Jarad Williams whilst fly-half Glyn Hughes marked his return to the side with two conversions and penalty.
Speaking after the game Lowes said: “I thought we showed a lot of character out there.
“Defensively we showed good shape and, but for a couple of lapses, we were able to cope with what they threw at us.
“I thought our young guys did not look out of place and our senior players in Matt Smith, Nathan Hannay, Glyn Hughes and James Doherty led the team extremely well.
“We will take a lot of confidence forward from this game into next week’s game with Gala at York and if we can show the same determination we will not be far off.”
The game started badly for Leeds when Sam Lockwood was sin binned for a series of offences at the scrum. The decision seemed harsh from the Italian official as Lockwood was causing his opposite number real problems.
And it was telling when the Bristol man was taken off tactically by Andy Robinson when Lockwood returned from the bin.
Just before Leeds got numerical parity, Bristol capitalised on a Carnegie error on their own line as the ball squeezed out of a ruck and hooker Rhys Lawrence dived on the ball to score the opening try. Nicky Robinson added the conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead after 24 minutes.
Leeds rallied after that and finished the half strongly.
A clever box kick from James Doherty penned Bristol near their line and as they tried to clear the ball from the ensuing line-out, scrum-half Callum Braley slipped as he tried to kick the ball under pressure from Jack Ramshaw and Jake Armstrong touched down the loose ball.
Hughes added an excellent conversion and a later penalty to give his side a 10-7 lead at the break.
That lead was increased when number eight Jarad Williams peeled off the back of a line out and powered his way over the line for the try.
Hughes added an excellent conversion in the conditions to give his side a ten point lead midway through the second half.
However, Bristol, who have made clear their intention to return to the top flight this season under former England boss Robinson, rallied in the final quarter and scored through replacement winger Andy Short and second row Ben Glynn.
Former Leeds player Adrian Jarvis converted both to give the home side a 21-17 lead.
Leeds produced a last ditch effort to take the win but, despite some great skill in the conditions to keep the ball alive, their effort was matched by Bristol’s defence and the home side held on for the win.
Bristol: Slowik, Speight, Otto (Short, 53), Carpenter, Amesbury, Robinson (Jarvis, 53), Braley (Grindal, 53) Lilley, Lawrence, Cortes (Douglas, 35), Sambucetti (Joyce, 60), Glynn, Grieve, Pennycook (Uren, 60), Eadie.
Leeds Carnegie: Georgiou (Griffin, 70), Martey, Lucock, Barker, Goss, Hughes, J Doherty, Lockwood (Imiolek, 40), Graham (J Walker, 70), Armstrong (Beech, 40), Smith, Hannay, Ramshaw (Brady, 71), C Walker (Doyle, 55), Williams.
Referee: Maiteo Liperini (Italy).