Leicester Tigers were beaten 17-3 by top-of-the-table Bristol Bears in Round 11 of the Gallagher Premiership season at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
The scoreline was harsh on a Tigers side who had their moments and worked so hard for the 80 minutes, while also illustrating Bristol’s clinical attack in the period just before half-time when they scored their two tries.
The clock had almost reached the half-hour mark before there was a breakthrough on the scoreboard as Tigers fly-half Joaquin Diaz Bonilla landed a 40-metre penalty.
But Bristol responded with tries from Will Capon and Piers O’Conor during a costly spell when Tigers were a man down to the sinbin before half-time.
Bears kicked off on top of the table with just one defeat since the opening round of the season, and with seven wins and a draw in their opening 10 games.
Both teams had players on England duty, including Tigers teenager George Martin who was named on the bench for the game against Wales, and Steve Borthwick gave call-ups to Cameron Henderson and Ollie Chessum in the pack, while Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Guy Porter came into the backline.
Chessum and Tommy Reffell joined together to block early Bristol progress in midfield in the opening minutes on a sunny early afternoon in the South-West, then Dan Kelly and Porter hunted down O’Conor as Bristol tried to play ball through hands.
A high tackle gave Bristol a penalty inside their own half and then Tomas Lavanini was penalised, but the Bears completely missed their lineout throw just six metres out from the tryline on their right.
Counter-rucking at the breakdown earned Bristol put-in at the next scrum as Tigers failed to clear their lines and they returned to the corner after a penalty award. Referee Christophe Ridley warned Tigers of the danger of a yellow card when the whistle went again, but this time, when Bears missed the tail of the lineout, Porter kicked clear and then led the chase to pin Bristol on their own 22.
When Bears conceded a penalty just inside their own half, Diaz Bonilla struck the kick wide and the game awaited its first points approaching the 20-minute mark.
They looked like coming when Bristol attacked from deep but Porter caught hooker Will Capon almost within reach of the whitewash and Reffell quickly got over the ball to win a penalty.
Reffell was also at the heart of the next defensive set, winning another penalty, this time close to halfway and Moroni closed out another dangerous phase on the Bristol left.
When Bristol’s backline were ruled offside at a lineout on the 10-metre line, Diaz Bonilla scooped the kick and saw it fall short but, just one phase of play later, Reffell’s strength at the breakdown brought another chance and this time the fly-half provided the first points of the game with 29 minutes gone.
Reffell was successful on the floor yet again as the game restarted but the referee blew against team-mates still on the wrong side of the tackle.
Moroni was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on and the response was immediate with a lineout drive for the tryline allowing hooker Capon to score. Ioan Lloyd added the conversion as Bears led with six minutes left in the first half.
Kobus van Wyk made a try-saving tackle after a 50-metre diagonal run from Luke Morahan to the left-hand corner and, when Bears moved ball across the field, John Afoa lost possession as he was tackled just short of the tryline.
Tigers were unlucky in that they got the final touch as the ball ran dead and play restarted with an attacking scrum which allowed Morahan to put in O’Conor to score next to the posts and the conversion made it 14-3 at half-time.
Moroni returned to make his presence felt with a big tackle on replacement Niyi Adeolokun but Tigers were then offside in the backline from a lineout and Lloyd chipped the three points to make it 17-3.
James Whitcombe was sent on for his Premiership debut on 50 minutes, with Dan Cole already on the tighthead side and Charlie Clare soon joined him in his 20th club appearance as a big scrum brought a penalty decision in Bears territory.
Tigers had an opportunity with a series of set-pieces in the right-hand corner before Bears could finally clear.
A high tackle on Moroni brought another wide on the right and Johnny McPhillips, on for Diaz Bonilla, judged a perfect kick to the right. After securing ball, Tigers got to within a metre of the tryline but then found their man isolated and Bears won a penalty award.
Van Wyk then attacked in the centre of the pitch as Tigers looked for a breakthrough, only to be forced back again as Bears hacked loose ball forward.
Another good tackle by Moroni forced Bears into touch on their left and then Chessum made his presence felt at a defensive lineout to wrap up ball.
A break from replacement Ben White tested Bears in midfield and the scrum-half was there again when McPhillips picked his way through in midfield before Kelly was penalised as he played ball on the floor.
Tigers were still intent on taking something out of the game with Kelly twice finding Harry Simmons on the attack on the left touchline and then Cameron Henderson was held up over the line with just 60 seconds left to play.
A penalty advantage allowed Tigers to go to touch for one last push but, after bringing in numbers to drive for the line, ball was lost forward and Bristol brought the game to a close with their defensive scrum.
FULL-TIME | BEARS 17-3 TIGERS
That's that from Ashton Gate as Tigers fall to a 17-3 defeat to league leaders Bristol Bears. Bonilla with Leicester only points of the day in Round 11 of the Gallagher Premiership.
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WE'RE AT 80 MINUTES
The clock turns red and a last push for Tigers from the Bristol scrum. Ben White snaps the scrum-half for Bristol.. a chance perhaps.
MAUL AND BRAWL
It's kicked into the corner and you know what's coming. The maul moves forward, but Bristol have turned it over and will win the scrum as the Bristol defence holds up.
FINAL PUSH FOR TIGERS
Charlie Clare and Dan Cole gallop forward as Tigers looking to get something else from this. harry Simmons finds the ball out wide and bounces forward.
It's time for the heavies as Dan Cole picks and goes. Followed by Henderson and then Whitcombe. Back for Henderson, who is held up, but decision goes Tigers way for an offside.
FIVE TO GO
Ball exchanged in possession, but Tigers defence called upon again. Dan Cole in the right place and Tigers have the turnover. It's nudged forward by Dan Kelly, but just too far for Kobus Van Wyk
Bears line-out and they recycle the ball. Yann Thomas tries to keep the ball moving, but there's no advantage so we'll have the scrum as we go into the games final five minutes.
BEARS CHANCE TO COME FORWARD
Siva Naulago and Charles Piutau have a go at the Tigers backline. Ball still with Bears and Matias Moroni again involved in defence.
Ball with Tigers and McPhillips shows and goes, but is held up as he tries to release Ollie Chessum.
HEAVY RUNNING FOR TIGERS
Tigers collasped at the scrum, but play continues and McPhillips, finds Murimurivalu who finds Porter but we'll go back for the advantage at the scrum.
kicked into touch and play continues with the Tigers line-out. Cole finds the ball in hand. Cameron Henderson has a drive. But Bristol snap the ball in contact and can kick clear.
BEARS DEEP IN TIGERS DEN
Capon throws in the line-out but Tigers have won the decision at the breakdown as Luke Wallace and Ollie Chessum do enough on the floor.
Tigers scrum and replacement scrum-half Ben white feeds the ball in. Chessum picks it at the base, and Tigers now opting to run out before White kicks high.
CHANCE FOR BRISTOL TO BREAK
Bristol with the chance to break following the dropped ball from Ollie Chessum in the line-out. Fitz Harding barrels forward, but we'll go back for the scrum.
Penalty advantage for Bristol but they will play. No advantage as Whitcombe is penalised.
HARD YARDS FOR TIGERS
A great kick from Mcphillips sets up the now expected line-out drive. the Tigers pack bruise forward and debutant James Whitcombe stretches for the line but is held up.
Eventually Christophe Ridley spots the penalty for Bristol and a chance to breathe for the Bears.
CHESSUM INVOLVED FOR TIGERS
Ollie Chessum wins another line-out and is up again to collect the ball off the back of the breakdown as the big man puts himself about this afternoon.
Ball still with Tigers. Moroni finds some space and Guy Porter attempts the line. Chipped through by McPhillips but it trickles out..the TMO spots a high tackle on Moroni though and a chance for Tigers to kick for territory.
Luke Wallace comes on for Tommy Reffell in the back row.
LINE-OUT DRIVE TIGERS WAY
Jack Van Poortvliet gets things moving off the line-out, but it's lost in the phase and Charles Piutau eventually kicks clear.
Tigers race back and Kobus Van Wyk comes back at the Bears line. The ball back with Bears and Uren mis-judges the kick from the breakdown.
TIGERS PACK PRESSING ONWARDS
From the scrum reset, Bears are penalised and Tigers opt for another scrum. The boys can sense something here.
An early engagement calls another reset, and the penalty once again goes Tigers way. McPhillips kicks for the touchline.
SCRUM POWERS FORWARD
The new front row fiercely imposing itself on the Bristol pack as the advantage goes Tigers way.
It's kicked into touch and the line-out will be reset. It's the favoured rolling maul, but the decision goes Leicester's way. McPhillips not messing about and we'll have a third consecutive line-out.
BALL TOO HOT TOO HANDLE
Van Wyk and Youngs almost able to capitalise on the loose ball but the bounce favours the home side.
Bears have the ball back in posession and it's a scrum in the Bristol half.
Captain Tom Youngs makes way for Charlie Clare at hooker for Tigers.
Johnny McPhillips and James Whitcombe come on for Bonilla and Leatigaga.
BRISTOL PENALTY CONVERTED
It's another three points for Bears as Ioan Lloyd takes the points for Bristol.
BRISTOL COME AT TIGERS
Bristol stretching the play in the last few minutes and Lloyd trying to influence all over, the ball finally comes out wide to Siva Naulago but it's another huge defensive tackle from Moroni for TIgers.
We'll have the line-out for Bears.
LINE-OUT DRIVE FOR TIGERS
We've seen it before and it works in Tigers favour, the rolling maul doing it's job. Bonilla receives and swings it out wide to Kobus Van Wyk, who runs inside but is held up.
It's a mistake at the breakdown and Bears scrum.
Dan Cole and Calum Green come on Joe Heyes and Tomas Lavnini for Tigers.
SECOND HALF HEEEAVE
Tigers win the penalty in the second half's first scrum thanks to the work of the front row, and Joe Heyes in particular.
It's kicked clear and Tom Youngs joins his own line-out for the maul. Tigers edge forward and Van Poortvliet kicks high but the mark is called and then cleared.
BRISTOL FAVOUR BALL IN HAND
The Bears not rushing to clear their lines as they look to run out the phases in their own half. Alapati Leiua steps past Joe Heyes and Moroni is there to intervene and bring down the centre.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Tito Bonilla to get the second half up and running as Tigers look to attack the Bears defence with it all to do in the next 40 minutes.
HALF-TIME | BEARS 14-3 TIGERS
At the half-way point, it's Bristol Bears who have the lead following two tries in the closing 10 minutes of the game. Bonilla with Tigers only points of the game so far.
BEARS KICK CONVERSION
Ioan Lloyd kicks the resulting conversion and it's Bears 14-3 Tigers.
O'CONOR SCORES FOR BEARS
It's a try for Piers O’Conor off the hands of Luke Morahan following the set-piece play for Bristol. Their lead is extended just before half-time.
Luke Morahan breaks from his own half and runs the diagonal and Tigers having to work hard to hold off the threat. The ball swings in the opposite direction and Nephi Leatigaga makes a last ditch tackle on Joe Joyce to quell the attack.
Ball goes forward and we'll go for the scrum.
BRISTOL LOOKING TO PLAY OUT OF HALF
The Bristol backline not content with kicking clear as the midfield try to run the ball out. Piutau and Leiua involved and it's eventually kicked clear.
LLOYD EXTENDS LEAD
Ioan Lloyd kicks the conversion and it's 7-3 with over five minutes left of the half.
TRY FOR BRISTOL
An immediate impact for Bristol as they make the extra man count in the rolling maul. Driving forward, it's the game's first try for Will Capon.
MORONI SHOWN YELLOW
Matias Moroni is shown the yellow card for a deliberate knock on and Tigers with 14 men for the remainder of the half.
BRISTOL BACK AT TIGERS
Bristol full of hunger as the ball switches possesion and Tigers having to scramble back.
The ball in play is knocked on by Moroni as he tries the intercept and we'll go to the TMO for a decision.
BONILLA OPENS SCORING FOR TIGERS
Tito Bonilla makes it third time lucky as Tigers open the scoring in Round 11. Tigers lead 3 points to nil.
REFFELL WINS THE JACKEL AND ANOTHER CHANCE AT THE POSTS
After a quick break from Bristol, it's Tommy Reffell who does the busniess in the breakdown and another chance for Bonilla to open the scoring.
BONILLA MISSES PENALTY
It's not got the distance for Bonilla as the ball falls short of the posts from the fly-half. The scores still scoreless.
CHANCE AT THE POSTS FOR TIGERS
Youngs finds Ollie Chessum and Bonilla kicks after receiving the ball following the quick line-out and a chance for the fly-half to kick at the posts following a Bristol penalty...
After a series of resets, the scrum is good and Uren collects finding Piutau and O’Conor but he loses the ball when grounded, so we'll have another scrum on the Tigers right flank.
Van Poortvliet feeds, but Nephi Leatigaga does the business from loosehead and wins the Tigers penalty. Bonilla finds touch.
TIGERS STRENGTH IN DEFENCE
Bristol trying to move the ball fast, but fantastic defensive work by Tigers at the breakdown wins the turnover. Bonilla kicks clear again and another chance to reload the set-piece for Tom Youngs.
BRISTOL COME BACK AT LEICESTER
Bristol move the ball across the pitch as Will capon almost breaks free, following quick hands from Luke Morahan and Dan Thomas. But Tigers win the penalty in the nick of time as Charles Piutau is too eager.
Tigers kick clear, but the line-out will still be in the Tigers half.
BONILLA KICKS...AND MISSES
Tito Bonilla misses the penalty kick and the game remains scoreless. Ioan Lloyd gets us back underway.
TIGERS ESCAPE AND CHANCE AT STICKS
Guy Porter with the big boot clear following an over-thrown line-out. Piutau collects and it's one end to the other as Tigers look to force the mistake.
It's wriggled into touch and Tom Youngs can throw in. He finds Henderon who finds JVP to Guy Porter - but Bonilla misses a pass to Murimurivalu. we'll go back for the penalty, and Bonilla with a chance to kick the games first points.
TIGERS PENNED IN
Still scoreless, but Bristol keeping the pressure on Tigers. Capon throws the short line-out and the maul comes, Uren decides to play and Charles Piutau joins the attack.
Another penalty against Tigers and the ball remains deep in the green, white and red half.
BRISTOL DEEP IN TIGERS HALF
Will Capon throws the ball in play and Bears attempt the maul. Tigers match the drive, and Bristol release the ball to the backs. But we'll go back for the penalty advantage who will go for a repeat from out wide.
Tommy Reffell collects the long line-out from Capon, but Bristol work hard to win the counter ruck.
MORONI ALMOST INTERCEPTS
Matias Moroni almost snatches the interception following some quick phase play from Bristol. Murimurivalu putting in the metres to close down, but the Puma can't collect.
The scrum in Bristol's favour sees Jake Heenan collect at the back. Tigers force back the metres though, but the penalty comes for Bears. They will kick to touch down Tigers left flank.
TIGERS RETAIN POSSESSION
Tigers keep the ball from the line-out deep in their half. Tom Youngs collects and the penalty is giving away by Bristol. Bonilla finds touch and we reset for another line-out.
JVP finds Harry Wells who carries and JVP box-kicks clear. Tigers penalised for not releasing and Bears chance to kick clear.
Tigers with the games first scrum as Jack Van Poortvliet feeds in the ball, it's a misplaced pass from the youngster at the back but Tigers keep the ball.
Going through the phases and Bonilla nudges the ball along the floor. Bristol win the turnover and keep the ball alive and it eventually goes long behind Bonilla.
TIGERS HOLDING TERRITORY
Leicester happy to keep the Bears phases at bay following a mis-judged kick to touch from fly-half Tito Bonilla.
Bears eventually pass the ball forward, and a chance for Tigers to slow the game down. We'll have the games first scrum.
EARLY BEARS PRESSURE
Bristol are seeing all the ball in the opening moments. Tigers having to defend deep in their half, but can walk up the metres.
Bristol with plenty of offloads, but Tigers holding their ground and winning the penalty.
BRISTOL TO KICK-OFF ROUND 11
It’s Ioan Lloyd who gets things underway at Ashton Gate as Tigers look to build on last week’s win over Wasps. C'mon Tigers!
THE TEAMS ARE OUT
Here we go, skipper Tom Youngs leads out the Tigers ahead of the hosts. Kick-off on the way!
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THE TIGERS LINE-UP...
Tom Youngs returns as captain alongside Nephi Leatigaga and Joe Heyes in the front row, while Tomás Lavanini is joined by former Scotland Under-20s cap Cameron Henderson at lock.
A new-look back-row combination of Ollie Chessum, Tommy Reffell and Harry Wells, following the suspension of Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese in Round 10.
Jack Van Poortvliet returns to the starting line-up to partner Joaquín Díaz Bonilla as the half-backs.
Dan Kelly starts at inside centre and Matías Moroni retains his place at outside centre.
Guy Porter returns on the wing as Kini Murimurivalu moves to full-back and Kobus Van Wyk competes the back three.
16 Charlie Clare
17 James Whitcombe
18 Dan Cole
19 Calum Green
20 Luke Wallace
21 Ben White
22 Johnny McPhillips
23 Harry Simmons
BRISTOL BEAR'S LINE-UP
How the home team line-up today...
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Andy Uren; 1 Jake Woolmore, 2 Will Capon, 3 John Afoa, 4 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce, 6 Steven Luatua (c), 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Jake Heenan.
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Yann Thomas, 28 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
The Tigers have won only once at Ashton Gate in four previous visits which was a 21-16 in November 2016.
Overall the two clubs have met on 185 previous occasions with Leicester winning 95 to 81 by
Bristol and nine games drawn.
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ALRIGHT MY LUVVER! TIGERS DOWN SOUTH
We’re on the road today in Round 11 of the Gallagher Premiership as we bring you all the action from Ashton Gate as the Bears face the Tigers kicking off in half an hour.
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