Leicester 23 Bristol 26: Tempers flare after Bears survived late attack to secure play-off semi-final at home with narrow bonus points victory
- Premiership leaders secured a home semi-final draw with a bonus points win
- The Bears had a slim lead when Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro was thrown into sin
- Despite only 14 remaining, the visitors survived a final five-meter scrumrum
- Things heated up after the final whistle, with players crashing on the sidelines
Pat Lam’s Bristol secured a semi-final in the play-offs at home but this chaotic victory left Leicester fans cheering, a brawl on the pitch and all the confusion over substitutions.
Leading 26-23 with time running out and Leicester camped out on their line Bristol had sinbinned replacement prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
They needed a front row replacement but rugby director Lam claimed John Afoa, who had previously been replaced and was the only tight head on the bench, was injured. The field officials claimed that Afoa had been a tactical replacement and that he would have to come back or else uncontested scrums would ensue.
Things heated up after the final whistle, with players colliding at the side of the pitch
Tries: Liebenberg, Montoya; Cons: McPhillips (2); Penalties: McPhillips (3)
Tries: Radrada (2), Randall, Malins; Cons: Sheedy (3)
When it happened, Afoa got going, Bears held out and a brawl – with Nathan Hughes and Ellis Genge to the fore – rounded out an eventful first day for fans on Welford Road. The match was 88 minutes old when ref Ian Tempest finally blew before time.
Before the ugly final, some rugby was played with Harry Randall showing Eddie Jones that he is back in the fray for the summer. The scrum half, capless but injured in the England side, shone on his first start in the Premiership since January after ankle problems.
Jones has plenty of scrum-half options for the Summer Games with the likes of Raffi Quirke of Sale, Alex Mitchell of Northampton, Dan Robson of Wasps and Jack Maunder of Exeter.
But Mitchell showed Jones he is back to work with his break at 38 minutes for Bristol’s second score.
Semi Radradra and Harry Randall cut through the Leicester defense in the first half
Fijian center Semi Radradra had completed a major move in Bristol for the first time. Full-back Max Malins collected a high ball, shot the ball up in the tackle to midfielder Siale Piatua and the Tonga international stormed the field before sending Radrada away.
That made it 7-3 for the Bears, after Johnny McPhillips’ early penalty, before Randall took center stage, picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and ran through the center of the Leicester defense to score from 38 yards.
But Leicester fought back after the break and took the lead at 16-14 when number 8 Hanro Liebenberg was at the end of a great pass from McPhillips and ran into the corner.
Two tries in three minutes by the Bears got that back with Randall involved as fly-half Callum sent Sheedy Malin off for a 50-yard run and Radradra took his second.
But cheered by over 6,000 fans for the first time in a year, Leicester’s replacement whore Julian Montoya was at the end of a race with Bristol whore Jake Kerr in the bin. That narrowed the gap to three points and then came chaos.