Vile ending for toothless Tigers

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The Independent Online

It was tight and thrilling. Bristol had to dig deep before shocking the Zurich Premiership leaders, Leicester, in a taut match that had the success-starved Bristol supporters cheering their heroes for long minutes after the final whistle.

It was tight and thrilling. Bristol had to dig deep before shocking the Zurich Premiership leaders, Leicester, in a taut match that had the success-starved Bristol supporters cheering their heroes for long minutes after the final whistle.

Only the kicking of Steven Vile had kept Bristol ahead in the latter stages after Paul Gustard's try had taken Tigers to within a point. Bristol's defence was tested to the limit as Leicester threw everything at them. But in the end the home side held out.

It was an emaciated Tigers side who took the field behind stand-in captain Richard Cockerill - the first time the hooker has captained the side in a league match - food poisoning on top of a bout of flu had reduced Austin Healey to a shadow of his belligerent self.

The half-stone he lost to dodgy grub saw Healey begin the match on the bench; then, to compound their problems, Leicester's captain, Martin Johnson, and the flanker Neil Back were struck down by a stomach bug and had to drop out at the last minute.

The Tigers were further hampered by an injury to the full-back and regular kicker Tim Stimpson, who injured his left cheek in a crunching collision with David Rees, the impact of which made the morning's earthquake in the Midlands seem a mere tremor.

The surviving Leicester players were laid low themselves when Bristol scored their first try in the 12th minute, Agustin Pichot, their combative scrum-half, beginning and ending the move in which David Rees skinned the Tigers defence before finding Pichot on his shoulder for the pass.

Vile, who had kicked an earlier penalty, converted that try before punishing Leicester for a further infringement. Then a series of penalties took Tigers close enough to set up a position from a five-metre scrum, at which James Grindal's intelligent switch opened up a gap for Andy Goode to scuttle through. The fly-half then converted his try.

But Bristol, who had lost five of their opening six matches, countered within 90 seconds. Leigh Davies burst through the middle like a power boat leaving Leicester bodies bobbing helplessly in his wake before finding Spencer Brown for the finishing touch.

Although Stimpson was replaced for the second half by Healey, the sometime England full-back returned to the fray when it became clear that Tigers were missing out on points from the boot.

He returned after Healey had set up Pat Howard for an unconverted try in the right-hand corner. Stimpson improved things when he landed an awkward penalty five minutes later, then came Gustard's try and that glorious climax.

Bristol: S Brown; D Rees, E Simone, L Davies, D Dewdney (S Morgan, 80); S Vile, A Pichot (capt); P Johnstone, B Williams, K Fullman, D Ryan, A Sheridan, S Fenn (J Brownrigg, 67), B Sturnham, A Vander.

Leicester: T Stimpson (A Healey, 41); A Newmarch (T Stimpson, 59), L Lloyd, P Howard, W Stanley; A Goode, J Grindal; G Rowntree (D Jelley, 73), R Cockerill (capt), D Garforth (R Nebbett, 66-73), P Short, B Kay, P Gustard, M Corry, A Balding.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

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