Leicester 23 Bristol 26: Tempers flare after Bears survive late onslaught to secure home play-off semi-final with a narrow bonus-point win
- Premiership leaders secured a home semi-final tie with a bonus-point win
- The Bears held a slender lead when Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro was sin-binned
- Despite being down to 14, the visitors survived a final five-metre scrum
- Tempers flared after the final whistle, with players clashing on the touchline
Pat Lam’s Bristol made sure of a home play-off semi-final but this chaotic win left the Leicester fans jeering, a pitchside brawl and all out confusion over replacements.
Leading 26-23 with time nearly up and Leicester camped on their line Bristol had replacement prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro sinbinned.
They needed a front row replacement but director of rugby Lam claimed that John Afoa, who had been replaced earlier, and was the only tight-head on the bench was injured. The pitchside officials claimed Afoa had been a tactical replacement and he would have to come back on or uncontested scrums would result.
Tempers flared after the final whistle, with players clashing on the side of the pitch
Tries: Liebenberg, Montoya; Cons: McPhillips (2); Penalties: McPhillips (3)
Tries: Radrada (2), Randall, Malins; Cons: Sheedy (3)
As it happened Afoa did come on, Bears held and a brawl – with Nathan Hughes and Ellis Genge at the forefront – rounded off an eventful first day back for fans at Welford Road. The match was 88 minutes old when ref Ian Tempest finally blew for time.
Before the ugly finale there was some rugby played with Harry Randall showing Eddie Jones he is back in contention for the summer. The scrum-half, uncapped but injured in England camp, starred on his first start in the Premiership since January after ankle trouble.
Jones has plenty of scrum-half options for the summer games with Sale’s Raffi Quirke, Northampton’s Alex Mitchell, Dan Robson of Wasps and Exeter’s Jack Maunder amongst those in the frame.
But Mitchell showed Jones he is back in business with his break on 38 minutes for Bristol’s second score.
Semi Radradra and Harry Randall carved through the Leicester defence in the first-half
Fijian centre Semi Radradra had rounded off a sweeping Bristol move for the first. Full-back Max Malins gathered a high ball, popped the ball up in the tackle to midfielder Siale Piatua and the Tonga international stormed upfield before putting Radrada away.
That made it 7-3 to the Bears, after Johnny McPhillips’ early penalty, before Randall took centre stage, picking the ball up from the base of ruck and running through the centre of the Leicester defence to score from 38 metres out.
But Leicester fought back after the break taking the lead at 16-14 when No.8 Hanro Liebenberg was on the end of superb pass from McPhillips and ran in, in the corner.
Two tries in three minutes by the Bears snatched that back with Randall involved as fly-half Callum Sheedy put Malin away for a 50m run-in and Radradra grabbed his second.
But cheered on by 6,000-plus fans for the first time in a year Leicester replacement hooker Julian Montoya was on the end of a driving maul with Bristol hooker Jake Kerr in the bin. That closed the gap to three points and then came the chaos.