Leicester booked themselves a home semi-final in the Premiership play-offs next Sunday with this comprehensive defeat of Bristol, who at times looked unmoved and uninterested in what was going on around them. Leicester will now host London Irish to decide who will meet the winner of the Sale versus Wasps game at Edgeley Park in the Twickenham final in three weeks' time.
Leicester finished top of the league last season but were demolished in the play-off final by Lawrence Dallaglio's Wasps. Above all else, the Tigers will not want a repeat of that unhappy day in the capital.
Bristol's season ended once it was confirmed, three weeks ago, that Leeds would be relegated, and although Richard Hill's side were always thought to be candidates for the drop, they have enjoyed a satisfactory first campaign since being promoted. Head coach Hill assembled a competitive squad with two Samoan backs, Brian Lima and David Lemi, added to a judicious mix of youngsters, some not-so-young experienced hands and some distinctly veteran individuals, not least a front row of Dave Hilton, Mark Regan and Darren Crompton who have a combined age of 103.
How Leeds have missed Regan. Bristol beat them 32-6 at the Memorial Stadium and also defeated the Tigers there, 15-3, when Leicester took the West Country side lightly and fielded a weakened side. These victories were important staging posts on the way to maintaining the Premiership status that allowed Bristol to be well under strength yesterday.
As they found to their cost, though, it is one thing to beat Leicester at home and quite another to best them at Welford Road, where the Tigers have remained unbeaten in the league this term.The first half yesterday was a mixture of the good, the bad and the downright sloppy, with both sides guilty of some maladroit play. Leicester were the more profligate, Daryl Gibson and Alesana Tuilagi each spoiling try-scoring chances by dropping the ball. But Leicester, always the more threatening despite their failings, did cross the line twice in the period.
The first try was a scruffy affair, as the hooker George Chuter was shunted over after a line-out drive from a penalty. Tom Varndell - the league's top try-scorer - scored the second after Austin Healey's long pass put him in the clear. Geordan Murphy missed both conversions but kicked a penalty, as did Jason Strange for Bristol to leave it at 13-3 at the break.
After it, a second try by Chuter, one from Tuilagi and another by Michael Holford - while Geraint Lewis was in the sin bin - took Leicester out of sight.
Leicester: G Murphy (S Vesty, 16-26; 39); A Tuilagi (M Corry, 70), L Lloyd (A Goode 53), D Gibson, T Varndell (H Ellis, 61); A Healey (capt), S Bemand; G Rowntree (M Holford, 45), G Chuter (J Buckland, 53), D Morris, J Hamilton, L Cullen (W Johnson, 14-20), S Jennings (W Johnson, 53), L Moody, L Deacon.
Bristol: B Stortoni (T Hayes, 71); L Robinson, B Lima, S Cox, M Stanojevic; J Strange (D Gray, 64), G Nicholls (J Rauluni, 64); M Irish, S Nelson (N Clark, 66), D Crompton (capt), R Winters, M Sambucetti, G Lewis (C Morgan, 70), C Short (I Grieve 80), D Ward-Smith.
Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).Reuse content