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Perfect recall for prolific props

Bristol has given many things to the game of rugby, including a stopping-off point for Tigers legend Martin Corry, but it is two Leicester front-rowers who will reserve a special place in their memories for the city.

Tigers travel down to Bristol this weekend and there will be some who recall Dan Cole’s first try for the club there back in 2009 – in just his 11th starting appearance for his hometown club.

Exact details escape The Tig, but it was probably a length-of-the-field effort scored out wide, finished with an elaborate dive . 

It was at the Memorial Ground, shared then with Bristol Rovers; not Ashton Gate, shared now with Bristol City.

That was the first of three Cole tries in 250-plus appearances, but who’s counting, and came in Richard Cockerill’s first half-season in charge following the early departure of Heyneke Meyer.

Incidentally, the game also sticks in the mind because Matt Smith, who had played in every single game from September up to that Friday in March, suffered an ankle injury.

A big favourite of then-coach Matt O’Connor, Smithy was back on both feet in a matter of weeks to resume in the starting line-up in a 73-3 win over Bristol – yes them again – in the return fixture also played at a football venue as Tigers hosted a Round 22 tie at the home of their neighbours during redevelopment work on the North Stand at their own stadium.

CoIe’s scoring feat against Bristol must have been contagious because Julian White, one of the original props’ props, was on the mark too in that Round 22 win.

Unsurprisingly, it was finished from close range. And if The Tig remembers rightly, he was flat on his back as he crossed the chalk under the posts.

Never mind, they all count. It was his fourth, and final, try in more than 150 games for the club and came against former employers too.

It was also at Bristol – at the then-dilapidated Ashton Gate – that Ben Youngs made his league debut back in 2007, just weeks before taking a place in the matchday squad for the Premiership Final win over Gloucester and several months ahead of his 18th birthday.

Bristol were the opposition when Tigers sealed a league title in 1995 – as recalled on Tigers’ LTTV channel during the first lockdown period last year – and also provided the venue for one of the most warmly remembered games of the Golden Era around the millennium which clinched another league crown in a season which began without the World Cup contingent and also without fly-half Joel Stransky, forced into retirement by injury.

That result ensured a second successive title in a sequence which would eventually run to four. League organisers hadn’t sent the trophy south-west for the occasion, leaving Tigers to wait another seven days to raise it, though at least that meant it could be done in front of a home crowd.

They did it following a 43-25 cuffing of old rivals Bath too, who had to be content with second place in the table, eight points back. Talk about icing on the cake.