Bristol secure double over Leicester
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Harry Thacker returned to haunt his former club once again as Bristol Bears secured a Premiership Rugby double over Leicester Tigers for the first time in their history.
Thacker scored a double in the impressive 41-10 win back in December at Ashton Gate, and the former Tiger was the key man again here with the pivotal late score at the back of a rolling maul for the 23-20 win.
The boot of George Ford and a first-half try from Jordan Olowofela had looked like being enough for the Tigers to secure a vital victory that would have secured their league status.
Instead, their wait goes on – they have also not won back to back league games since October – while the Bears are still dreaming off the top six as Dan Thomas and Callum Sheedy also dotted down.
Ford and Sheedy traded early penalties at Welford Road as the Bears, keen to build on their impressive win over Saracens last time out, stuck around.
Olowofela then went over down the left after quick hands from Guy Thompson and Jonny May had released him to put the Tigers 11-6 ahead.
But Sheedy then went slaloming over for a fine solo score, missed the extras and it was all square at the interval.
Tom Pincus was denied a score for the Bears early in the second half by the TMO and Ford added another penalty to put the Tigers back in front soon after.
The Bears came storming back once again, Matt Toomua sent to the sin bin for the scrambling Tigers, but Thompson’s superb breakdown work continued to rescue Geordan Murphy’s men.
May went close up the other end but Ford added another penalty and at 17-11 Tigers finally had some breathing room.
But back came Pat Lam’s Bears, Thomas scoring for the second game in a row after a super counterattack down the right led by Piers O’Conor.
The rain was now falling and Toomua was back on for Tigers, but Sheedy tugged his conversion and the Tigers were still 17-16 ahead.
Ford then slotted his fourth penalty and Tigers were dreaming of a vital win at 20-16.
But the Bears remained unbowed, and Thacker went over at the back of a maul and replacement Ian Madigan added the extras and the Bears survived.
For Leicester Tigers:
Pens: Ford 5
For Bristol Bears:
Tries: Sheedy, Thomas, Thacker
Pens: Sheedy 2
Leicester Tigers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Jonny May, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Ben White, 22 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 23 Telusa Veainu
Bristol Bears: 15 Mat Protheroe; 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua; 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa,2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 James Lay, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 George Smith, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Siale Piutau.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla & Hamish Smales.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.