Leicester went to the top of the Premiership table with their fourth league victory in a row against a Bristol side seemingly doomed for relegation. The hosts produced a spirited display to take a losing bonus point, but it could have been more but for a disappointing second half after they had led 14-7 at the break. Victory could have come at a cost for the Tigers with wing Matt Smith, scrum-half Julian Dupuy and flanker Marco Wentzel suffering injuries to join the seven players already sidelined.
The Tigers took the lead while down to 14 men – Smith was receiving treatment for a right leg injury – as Dan Cole picked up from a ruck and slipped a couple of half tackles to score under the posts with Dupuy adding the extras.
Bristol replied immediately as Luke Arscott broke through before passing to Robert Sidoli. The lock was stopped just short of the line but managed to return the pass to the full-back to touch down with Barnes adding the conversion.
The visitors wasted another opportunity to score as scrum-half Dupuy broke through but held on to the ball too long and his pass to Alesana Tuilagi went to ground. Dupuy, who kicked seven penalties against Gloucester last weekend, had to leave the field with a leg injury.
Five minutes before the break Bristol took the lead as they worked the ball along the backs to wing David Lemi who ran in 20 metres down the left unopposed with Barnes adding the touchline conversion to the cheers of their supporters. Just before the interval the Tigers lost a third players to injury as flanker Wentzel had to be replaced Ben Herring.
Leicester reduced the arrears to a single point as simple errors and poor discipline crept in to Bristol's play. Fly-half Tom Vesty first kicked a simple 10-metre penalty from in front of the posts and a second from 41 metres.
Bristol came back as Neil Brew broke through supported by Sidoli, and then Lemi, before Leicester were penalised at the breakdown and Barnes kicked the penalty.
But Leicester came back as replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs raced away before off-loading to Hipkiss who scored under the posts. Vesty added the simple conversion and a penalty in the final minute to seal the game.
Scorers: Bristol: Tries Arscott, Lemi; Conversions Barnes 2; Penalty Barnes. Leicester: Tries Cole, Hipkiss; Conversions Dupuy, Vesty; Penalties Vesty 3.
Bristol: L Arscott, T Arscott, N Brew, N Brew, Lemi, Barnes, Perry (Thomas 78), Clarke (Irish 56), Regan, Crompton, Winters (Sambucetti 56), Sidoli, To'oala (R Pennycook 56), El Abd, Ward-Smith.
Leicester: Hamilton, Smith (Varndell 14), Hipkiss, Mauger, Tuilagi, Vesty, Dupuy (Youngs 25), Ayerza, Davies, Cole (Bonorino 73), L. Deacon, Kay, Wentzel (Herring 38), Woods, Pienaar.
Referee: G Garner (RFU)
*Eddie Jones, the former Wallaby coach, yesterday left his job as director of rugby at Saracens with immediate effect. Jones, who last month signalled his intention to quit the club at the end of the season after disagreements with the new South African owners, severed all links with Vicarage Road after confirming he had agreed a five-year deal with the Japanese side Suntory Sungoliath. Another Australian, the coaching coordinator Richard Graham, will run the team for the rest of the campaign.Reuse content