Leicester Tigers were beaten 40-3 by Bristol Bears in the final away game of the Gallagher Premiership season at Ashton Gate on Wednesday.
Without an away win in the league campaign, Tigers trailed 21-3 at half-time after tries from Ioan Lloyd, Nathan Hughes and Bryan Byrne as Bristol chased the bonus-point victory needed to keep them in contention for a place in the top four.
The crucial fourth score came early in the second half from Dan Thomas and Harry Thacker added the fifth before a last-minute penalty try completed the card as Bristol added another win to a home record showing one league defeat during 2020.
Led out by 20-year-old Thom Smith in just his ninth first-team appearance, it was Tigers who got the game under way just as the rain turned heavy in the midweek teatime kick-off and in the opening minutes both teams were happy to kick long and play for territory before an inevitable knock-on brought the first scrum.
Kicking continued to dominate the early minutes, with Henry looking for wings Harry Potter and Harry Simmons with crossfield punts while also keeping play in the opposition half.
The opening penalty went into Bristol’s favour near halfway and referee Craig Maxwell-Keys was playing advantage again as wing Niyi Adeolokun almost found his way to the line before knocking-on around his ankles. When lock Dave Attwood took a tap and dived for the line, he was stopped short and then penalised in possession.
Luke Wallace and Ollie Chessum made important tackles in midfield to keep play on halfway and, when ball was spilled, Henry’s left-footed kick to the corner pushed them back to their own line.
But a scrum penalty midway inside the Tigers half presented Bristol with the chance to get first points on the board with 18 minutes gone. Although the forwards were met with decent defence, play was eventually worked to the right and Ioan Lloyd made use of the man out wide to create a gap to dart through and score. Sheedy added the conversion for a seven-point lead.
It was Bristol’s first meaningful visit to Tigers territory as another diagonal kick from Henry just evaded the reach of Freddie Steward on the opposition 22. But Tigers stayed on the attack as Joe Heyes picked up at a ruck and, as he looked for Ben White in support, the whistle blew for an offside and Henry kicked the penalty to get his side on the board at 7-3.
The Bears came back to attack on the opposite flank with Adeolokun again before being awarded another penalty just in front of the tryline.
They elected to scrum and gained another penalty, which this time led to a try as No8 Nathan Hughes picked up to score. Sheedy’s conversion made it 14-3 on the half-hour.
Tigers continued to work hard in defence on halfway, forcing Sheedy to kick for territory before Bristol eventually made a break down the right. Adeolokun stretched the defence before looking for support inside, where White was penalised for a deliberate knock-on and was yellow-carded as the hosts took play into the corner and immediately imposed sanctions of their own with a third try.
Setting up the lineout drive, it was credited to hooker Bryan Byrne and the lead reached 21-3 with the conversion.
When flanker Dan Thomas was whistled for offside at a ruck after Freddie Steward’s break, Henry fell short with a 50-metre penalty kick as the half came to a close and with the clock showing just seconds remaining in the opening period, Henry took aim at the posts. From 45 metres and near the right touchline, though, the kick fell short as Lloyd kicked clear to bring the half to a close.
Bristol’s bonus-point score came from the front of an attacking lineout just five minutes after the restart, with Dan Thomas dotting down. Sheedy added the extras off the post to make it 28-3 as White returned from the sin bin.
Henry’s chipped kick to the right found Potter in space and he had Lloyd scampering back to cover, though the Bears were kept in their 22 by Tigers’ work across the field until finally having put-in to a scrum and a platform to play again.
Steward made a timely tackle on Adeolokun just 15 metres out before Blake Enever’s big hit in midfield and Bristol were forced to go from touchline to touchline.
Jack van Poortvliet’s first contribution at scrum-half was a big clearing kick which Potter chased and forced a handling error, which was repeated further infield as Tigers had put-in at a scrum.
Although the rain had stopped, handling errors continued, with Adeolokun running clear to dive in under the posts, only to see play come back for a knock-on at the base of a scrum.
The referee had been playing a penalty advantage, however, and play restarted with Sheedy chipping into the right-hand corner and when they broke from the lineout, scrum-half Andy Uren found Thacker on his shoulder to score. Sheedy missed the conversion at 33-3.
Shalva Mamukashvili made his Tigers debut as a replacement in the final quarter of an hour, becoming the club’s first Georgian player and quickly getting a couple of scrums under his belt.
The rain belted down again for the closing five minutes as Tigers over-hit a penalty to touch on the right and then had to defend as Adeolokun wriggled free near halfway before the visitors forced an error just 15 metres from the tryline.
Enever was hurt in a chase for loose ball 25 metres out but was back on his feet as Tigers defended a scrum and pushed Bristol back again before another set-piece after spilled ball on halfway. This time, loose ball in midfield gave Bristol a chance to hack ahead but it was Simmons who won the race and slid in to dot down behind his own line.
With the clock on 80 minutes, Bristol had a five-metre scrum and looked to make space on the right-hand corner where Simmons intervened again. Referee Maxwell-Keys watched the replay as the left wing stretched out a hand to block the final pass and showed a yellow card as he awarded the penalty try to complete Bristol’s victory.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
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We'll be back for the final game of the season, at home to Harlequins this Sunday, October 4 (3.00pm) and we hope you can join us again. Until then, goodbye.
FULL TIME | 40-3
Premiership top-four-chasing Bristol prove to powerful for Tigers in midweek, as they go down by 40 points to three at Ashton Gate.
PENALTY TRY | 40-3
Simmons is shown yellow for a knock on and Bristol are awarded a seven-point score in the final play of the game.
TMO | CHECK ON SIMMONS
Harry Simmon's tackle attempt on Radradra is called up for a deliberate knock on, and the TMO is looking for a penalty try here...
Bristol kick in behind but Harry Simmons turns on the gas to get back ahead of Adeolokun, and we'll have one final scrum as the clock ticks beyond 80.
EVENING SUMMED UP
Henry chases his own kick, only for Leiua to knock on into the hands of Mamukashvili ... who can't grasp it. That's this game in micro, unfortunately.
PAUSE FOR TREATMENT
It's the Tigers medics who are back in action next, though, after Luke Wallace takes a hit on the neck at a ruck and Blake Enever looks unhappy with his knee.
Both are patched up and stay on the field for the final five.
Running into Nephi Leatigaga is not to be recommended, especially when you're a nippy little scrum-half like Andy Uren.
There's an audible *smack* over the ref's mic after that one.
FRUSTRATION ALL ROUND
Bristol's headby runners turn it on as they close in on the Leicester line, but skipper Steven Luatua - guess what - spills the ball and we'll restart with a scrum.
... NOT THIS TIME
...but the kick to the corner from Johnny McPhillips is missed in the pouring rain, and we'll have yet another scrum.
Drat and blast ... are the strongest words that this Matchday Live commentator is allowed to use to sum up.
Van Poortvliet does a great job at keeping the ball as three Bristol defenders swarm over him from the scrum, but Tigers have the penalty advantage and will go for the corner.
David Williams runs on for Harry Potter, and that's the final Tigers replacement of the evening.
FRONT ROW REPLACEMENT
Kyle Sinckler is off - again - and Yann Thomas is back on - again - this time at tighthead. He'll go up against Bower in this next scrum.
A nice hook from Georgian hooker Mamukashvili gets Tigers some more ball, but Henry looks to test the home side in their possession.
LEWIS FOR CHESSUM
Sam Lewis is into the Tigers back row as Ollie Chessum takes a place among the replacements.
George Worth is the latest Tigers defender to dig deep with a nice hit on Sheedy, who he manages to wrestle to the ground despite the attempted hand-off.
Shalva Mamukashvili is on for his first appearance in Tigers colours, as he takes the place of Jake Kerr in the Leicester front row.
PING ... PONG
Can we have a dry ball, please? Both teams cough up possession in front of the Tigers posts and we'll have another break in play.
TWO MORE TIGERS
Thom Smith is replaced by Jordan Coghlan at the back of the Tigers scrum, while Johnny McPhillips is on for Freddie Steward. Henry shifts to full-back.
Jake Woolmore and Jack Bates join the fray in place of Kyle Sinckler and Piers O'Conor, respectively.
OFF THE WOODWORK!
Bristol's conversion attempt bounces off the post.
TRY NUMBER FIVE | 33-3
Uren goes from the back of a Bristol maul and feeds Thacker, who steps the last man for try number five.
BOWER FOR GIGENA
Facundo Gigena's evening is over, with Ryan Bower now on at loosehead.
RESET SCRUM ... AGAIN
Quizzical looks from both front rows after the latest attempt at a scrum ends in the wet grass, but Bristol come away with possession ... and Hughes knocks on.
Good stuff, too, as Adeolokun scampers in under the posts. Let off.
Semi Radradra is on to the field in place of full-back Ioan Lloyd, so presumably the hosts will have a re-rack of their backs.
The ball is starting to resemble a bar of soap now - that's another handling error, as Freddie Steward spills it forward in contact. Oh dear.
Simmons runs a nice line round the corner of the scrum, but there's no way through the Bristol defence this time around.
Henry and Van Poortvliet both go to the air for the latest barrage of the Bears, but Nathan Hughes gets under the latest kick and looks to break a tackle - but drops the ball in the process.
Despite the scoreline, Tigers refuse to die in this game. Great pressure from Van Poortvliet's box kick forces the error on Harry Potter's wing, and then Bristol spill the ball a second time again on this near side.
Enever puts those big shoulders to work with a huge hit on Attwood in midfield. Ouch.
Bristol splinter the Tigers defence with a strong maul, and then pull the trigger through their backs and a neat one-two between Sheedy and Adeolokun.
Lahiff hobbles off, so Sinckler is back for the hosts.
CHANGE AT NO9
Jack van Poortvliet is on at scrum-half for Tigers, as Ben White takes a seat on the bench.
Great hands from Gigena in the tight get quick ball out to Henry and then Simmons, but it's spilled forward on the touchline. Argh.
Macwell-Keys is adamant the two front rows will get this scrum completed, and he has a word with the heavy men before we take a second bite of the cherry.
Former Tigers man Harry Thacker takes the place of Bryan Byrne in the home front row.
Joe Heyes is replaced by Nephi Leatigaga at tighthead.
Henry gets the ball out to Potter with a perfectly-weighted kick pass, and then the wing's chip-and-chase puts full-back Lloyd under immense pressure until his team-mates can arrive and stem the tide.
Ed Holmes (for Joe Joyce) and Max Lahiff (for Kyle Sinckler) are on for Bristol.
Tigers return to a full complement after Ben White completes his 10 minutes riding the pine.
FOUR FROM FOUR | 28-3
Sheedy's conversion bounces through off the inside of the left post.
BONUS-POINT SCORE | 26-3
Dan Thomas comes up with the ball after another strong drive from the home pack.
KICK TO NOTHING
The Bears win the scrum battle this time around, with the penalty going against Joe Heyes, and they kick under advantage to Harry Potter.
The Tigers wing does a great job under the high ball, but we'll come back for the original offence.
You have to feel for Blake Enever, there. Tigers come round the corner on their own possession but the greasy ball slips from the Wallaby's grasp. Unlucky.
STRIP AND SLIP
Dave Attwood goes against the run of play and strips Leicester ball, but it slips forward in the process and Simmons will have a put-in at a Tigers scrum early in this second half.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
We're back up and running in the second half in Bristol.
MATCH ACTION | CAM THE MAN
Cameron Henderson climbs highest at a first-half lineout at Ashton Gate.
HALF TIME | 21-3
Tigers trail at the break at Ashton Gate in Round 21 of the Gallagher Premiership season.
KICK AT GOAL
Henry has a kick at goal as the clock ticks into the red, but it's not a great connection and it curls wide, and that's the half.
STEWARD STANDS STRONG
BRR-illiant stuff from Freddie Steward, one-on-one with Leiua on the wing, and he catches the Samoan's chip through above his head to stop the latest surge forward.
Harry Simmons shifts to scrum-half in the absence of White and fizzes a quick pass away from the ruck to get the Tigers backs firing.
QUICK KICK | 21-3
Sheedy's quick conversion takes Bristol up to 21 points.
MAUL TRY | 19-3
The home side get their maul motoring from the lineout, and it's Bryan Byrne who claims the score.
YELLOW CARD | BEN WHITE
The scrum-half is shown a yellow card for his part in stopping that play, and Bristol kick to the corner with five minutes remaining in this half.
TMO | DELIBERATE KNOCK ON?
Tigers scramble back after Dave Attwood gets through on the right, and Maxwell-Keys wants to check for a deliberate knock on from Ben White...
SOLID AT 13
Dan Kelly does a great job of wrestling a wriggling Adeolokun to the ground to shut down a threat on the far side.
Henry sends it skyward from his own 22 as he attempts to pick out Harry Potter on the right-hand side, but Leiua gets a soggy mitt to it to bat back for full-back Lloyd.
A great mini-battle merging at the scrum as Gigena starts to get right under the skin of Sinckler, and the former Harlequins man gets a warning for back chat for his troubles. Naughty boy.
Piers O'Conor is picked out for running across Freddie Steward at the restart - not for the first time in this game - and so we'll have another pushing contest, this time almost on halfway.
AND THE EXTRAS | 14-3
Sheedy's successful conversion gets the Bears up to 14 points.
HUGHES CRASHES OVER | 12-3
Bristol get the nudge at the reset scrum and Nathan Hughes crashes over from No8.
Tough call on Gigena this time as Tigers look to repel a five-metre scrum, but it will be reset.
UP TO THE LINE
...although it's not long before Bristol are back on Tigers' line after a break on the fringe through Yann Thomas, and then play is brought back to the left.
Joe Heyes is picked out for a no-arms-tackle and referee Maxwell-Keys instructs Thom Smith to speak to his players.
Blake Enever is adjudged to have disrupted the Bears at the restart, giving away a penalty, but he gets right over the home side's ball when play restarts to shift momentum in Tigers' favour. Lovely stuff.
ON THE BOARD | 7-3
Henry slots a penalty kick to get Tigers on the board this evening.
HEYES BURSTS THROUGH
Tigers draw the penalty after Dan Thomas tackles Zack Henry at the back of the lineout, and the visitors looks to make the most of their advantage when human bowling ball Joe Heyes picks and runs through the first defender, but he can't get the offload away to White.
Henry points to the posts...
Freddie Steward beats his man to a high ball, but it's like a bar of soap out there and it seems to rattle from right hand, to left, to grass in slow motion. Frustrating.
The forwards work well to protect White at the next ruck - Jake Kerr and Thom Smith adding good bulk to the back of the caterpillar - and the scrum-half's kick forces the knock-on from Alapati Leiua. Much more like it.
White has to pull out of his first attempt at a box kick after the Bears hustle around the edge of the ruck, and then half-chargedown his second bite of the cherry to force a scrum.
CONVERSION ADDED | 7-0
Callum Sheedy's conversion gives Bristol a seven-point lead.
BEARS SCORE | 5-0
Bristol break the deadlock through Ioan Lloyd as they stretch the Tigers defence close to the line.
Facundo makes amends for the scrum with brilliant line speed to hit Bristol back a couple of metres from their initial drive, but the home side will go again...
KICK TO CORNER
Sinckler gets the upper hand on Gigena this time around at scrum time, and Callum Sheedy kicks to the corner.
A BIT TOO MUCH
Freddie Steward makes a lovely connection with his return kick - a little too lovely - as it bounces the wrong side of the corner flag. Unlucky.
Great pressure from the red shirts of Leicester wins the ball back on halfway - can't quite make out who from this camera angle - but Henry makes brilliant ground with the kick downfield, and Bristol prepare for a defensive lineout.
Tigers win their lineout, and then Gigena bats back to White, who hits on to Henry - but the ball ends up in Bristol hands once more. They'll have a throw of their own.
Neither team can get a hand to the slippery ball in some horrid conditions, but it bounces back on the Bristol side and they come away with it. Messy.
The arm is out on the home team's side once more and they push up to the line through winger Niyi Adeolokun, but the last-gasp defence is good.
Luke Wallace doubles down by getting over the ball on the line to allow a decent exit kick.
The Tigers defence have to be on their toes as Bristol go wide to the left for the first time in this match, and while scrum-half White tracks back to cover a kick through, we'll come back for a Bears advantage.
Bristol get out of their own half, though, after Andy Uren box kicks away from the base of another scrum, and it'll be Jake Kerr to throw in at the lineout.
Blake Enever barks his orders from the peak of a strong Tigers maul, which pushes the visitors up into the Bears half once more. Nicely done.
...but we'll restart with a scrum, which is reset by referee Craig Maxwell-Keys after it goes down on the far side at first attempt.
That's Facundo Gigena up against Kyle Sinckler.
But Ben White digs the ball out, and Henry boots to Bristol full-back Ioan Lloyd.
Both sides feeling each other out in the early exchanges under leaden skies, and Zack Henry has Bristol pinned back into their own 22 with a testing kick.
KICK OFF IN ROUND 21!
We’re underway at Bristol in Round 21 of the Gallagher Premiership season.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO | FINAL TEAM CHECKS
Not long now until we’re ready to go at Ashton Gate, so here’s a final check on your Tigers team and our hosts this evening.
COME ON TIGERS!
Leicester Tigers: 15 Steward, 14 Potter, 13 Kelly, 12 Worth, 11 Simmons, 10 Henry, 9 White; 1 Gigena, 2 Kerr, 3 Heyes, 4 Henderson, 5 Enever, 6 Chessum, 7 Wallace, 8 Smith (c).
Replacements: 16 Mamukashvili, 17 Bower, 18 Leatigaga, 19 Lewis, 20 Coghlan, 21 Van Poortvliet, 22 McPhillips, 23 Williams.
Bristol Bears: 15 Lloyd, 14 Adeolokun, 13 O’Conor, 12 Bedlow, 11 Leiua, 10 Sheedy, 9 Uren; 1 Y Thomas, 2 Byrne, 3 Sinckler, 4 Attwood, 5 Joyce, 6 Luatua (c), 7 D Thomas, 8 Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Thacker, 17 Lahiff, 18 Woolmore, 19 Holmes, 20 Heenan, 21 Randall, 22 Bates, 23 Radradra.
The Tigers squad run through their final preparations on a decidedly damp Ashton Gate pitch. Proper rugby weather, this.
TEAM TALK | BORTHWICK DISCUSSES SELECTION
Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick spoke of the ‘privilege’ each member of the matchday squad has in playing in the club’s penultimate fixture of the season.
“With it being a short turnaround, we have made changes to the squad but each of the players selected knows the privilege it is to represent Leicester Tigers and will be prepared for Wednesday,” he told LTTV.
“There are several guys backing up from last weekend's European fixture and a mix of senior players, as well as some exciting youngsters in this group – which includes 10 Tigers Academy graduates.
“Bristol have been playing very well and are in a position to push for a place in the Premiership finals.
“We know the challenge this will be and are excited about the opportunity to come up against a side who are in the mix for a place in the play-offs.”
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS | ANOTHER TIGERS DEBUT?
Shalva Mamukashvili is the latest addition to the Tigers squad in line for his club debut this evening, after being named among the replacements.
Meanwhile, Thom Smith will lead Tigers for the second time in just his ninth senior appearance for the club.
He starts at No8 alongside Luke Wallace and Ollie Chessum in the back row, with Cameron Henderson and Blake Enever named in the engine room.
Facundo Gigena, who came off the bench in the European Challenge Cup semi-final in Toulon, is joined by Jake Kerr and Joe Heyes in the starting front row.
Ben White and Zack Henry, who were used off the bench in Saturday’s fixture in France, are the half-backs, with George Worth partnering Dan Kelly in the midfield.
Harry Simmons and Harry Potter are the starting wings, with vice-captain Freddie Steward at full-back.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here.
MATCH PREVIEW | TIGERS TAKE ON THE BEARS
Ashton Gate in Bristol is the destination for Leicester Tigers’ final away game of the 2019/20 season this evening.
Although Bristol Bears have won just twice in the last five rounds of Gallagher Premiership rugby – at Worcester in Round 18 and against Northampton in Round 19 – they have lost only once at their home stadium in league action during 2020 and are still in the chase for a place in the season’s semi-finals.
The Bears go into Round 21 in fifth place in the table but still within striking distance of Sale Sharks, Wasps and Bath in the top four.
See all the important facts and stats in our full match preview here.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE for Leicester Tigers’ Gallagher Premiership match under the Wednesday night lights at Bristol Bears (5.30pm).
Follow all the action with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.