Bristol edge Leicester to secure home semifinal
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: Bristol Bears held off a late Leicester charge to earn a 26-23 bonus-point win at Welford Road and seal a home semifinal in the Premiership.
First-half tries from Semi Radradra and the returning Harry Randall fired Pat Lam’s side into an eight-point lead at the interval, but Jonny McPhillips’ third penalty and Hanro Liebenberg’s score edged the Tigers in front on 54 minutes.
The Bears responded immediately as Sheedy sent Malins through a gap and on his way to the line from 60 metres, before O’Conor’s interception and offload gifted a second to Radradra and bagged the bonus point.
But in a dramatic final quarter, Jake Kerr was sent to the sin bin and Julian Montoya powered over to make it a three-point game with 13 minutes left to play.
And with Tigers camped on the visitors’ line, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro became the second player to see yellow, as the hosts piled on the pressure late on.
But the Bears held on, with Uren scooping into touch to seal the win and a first-ever top-two finish in the Premiership.
In Saturday’s other matches, Newcastle Falcons beat Worcester Warriors 24-14 at Kingston Park, while Wasps edged London Irish 39-36 at the Brentford Community Stadium
Back at Welford Road, McPhillips punctuated a scrappy opening 20 minutes with his first penalty of the afternoon, before the Bears came to life in trademark style. Malins broke from deep and offloaded from the deck into the lap of Siale Piutau, and the Tongan’s pinpoint pass sent Radradra to the line.
McPhillips added a second, but the returning Randall quickly cancelled it out, tapping a penalty on halfway and racing over for his side’s second try.
It was a five-point game four minutes into the second period when McPhillips landed his third penalty of the afternoon, but he was unable to land a fourth from the angle shortly after.
The Tigers’ No.10 was the architect of Liebenberg’s score on 54 minutes, breaking the line before locating the South African in space to give the home side a narrow lead.
The Bears hit back with a sensational first phase try – Sheedy with the double-pump to pull Murimurivalu out of the defensive line and allow Malins to ghost through the whole the Fijian had left.
The bonus point arrived on the hour mark when O’Conor snaffled an interception from George Martin’s loose pass and fed Radradra, but when Kerr was shown yellow with 15 minutes remaining, Tigers sensed an opportunity.
They took it almost immediately courtesy of Montoya and a well-worked driving line-out – and when Chaparro replaced Kerr in the sin bin, Tigers found themselves camped on the Bears line.
Four scrum drives followed before Uren latched on to a loose ball to punt into touch and ensure the Bears’ second successive play-off semifinal would be at Ashton Gate.
Leicester Tigers 23-26 Bristol Bears
Tries: Liebenberg, Montoya
Cons: McPhillips 2
Pens: McPhillips 3
Tries: Radradra 2, Randall, Malins
Cons: Sheedy 3
Yellow cards: Jake Kerr (Bristol Bears, 64); Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Bristol, 82)
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Nemani Nadolo.
Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Piers O’Conor, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Will Capon, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Rob Warburton
TMO: Karl Dickson.
Newcastle Falcons 24-14 Worcester Warriors
Tries: Radwan 2, McGuigan, Robinson
Cons: Connon 2
Tries: Shillcock, Hill
Cons: Weir, Shillcock
Yellow card: Jamie Blamire (Newcastle, 76)
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Joel Hodgson, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George Wacokecoke, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Adam Brocklebank.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Michael Young, 22 Chidera Obonna, 23 Alex Tait.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Noah Heward, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tom Dodd, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ted Hill (captain), 3 Jay Tyack, 2 Beck Cutting, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Nick Schonert, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 GJ van Velze, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Alex Hearle, 23 Harri Doel.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & John Meredith
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish 36-39 Wasps
For London Irish:
Tries: Rona 2, Hassell-Collins, Tuisue 2
Cons: Jackson 4
Tries: Bassett 2, Willis 3, Watson
Cons: Umaga 3
Yellow cards: Terrence Hepetema (London Irish, 29); Adam Coleman (London Irish, 54)
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 James Stokes, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan (captain), 6 Matt Rogerson, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Jack Cooke, 22 Rory Brand, 23 Jacob Atkins.
Wasps: 15 Charlie Atkinson, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Rob Miller.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Roy Maybank
TMO: Matthew Carley