Premiership: Bristol Bears 26-26 Leicester Tigers – hosts fight back to draw with champions

Will Porter of Bristol is tackled by Ollie Chessum of Leicester
Bristol scored four tries to Leicester’s three as the two sides drew at Ashton Gate
Bristol Bears (12) 26
Tries: Radradra, Piutau, Byrne, Ibitoye Cons: Sheedy, MacGinty
Leicester Tigers (23) 26
Tries: Kelly, Ashton, Montoya Con: Burns Pens: Burns 3

Bristol came from behind to secure a dramatic 26-26 draw with Leicester at Ashton Gate.

Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau scored for Bristol but a trio of tries from Dan Kelly, Chris Ashton and Julian Montoya gave Tigers a 23-12 lead.

Bryan Byrne cut the deficit before Tigers had Francois van Wyk sent off.

Gabriel Ibitoye crossed to tie the score before Bristol’s AJ MacGinty missed a penalty to win the game with the last kick of the match.

The draw ends a run of six consecutive defeats in the Premiership for Bristol but means they remain at the bottom of the league table on points difference behind London Irish, while Leicester move up to fifth.

The Bears started on top with Radradra – making his first start since suffering a knee injury in April – taking only four minutes to score from close range, after Sam Lewis was stopped near the line.

Bristol’s ill-discipline has been problematic all season though and they conceded six penalties in the first 20 minutes, allowing Freddie Burns to kick Leicester ahead with two penalties.

Still, Piutau followed Radradra over the try line after a stellar passage of play which included a quick off-load from Ellis Genge and a long pass over the top from Callum Sheedy to pick out the full-back.

But their lead was short-lived as Radradra was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Burns and Leicester responded with three quick tries.

Kelly, similarly marking his return from a long-term injury, got the first, crossing just seconds after Radradra’s departure.

Leicester then patiently moved through the phases before using their width, allowing Ashton – one of seven England internationals in Leicester’s back line – to run over, and Montoya added their third try from a driving maul right on half-time.

Bristol missed the chance to score seconds after the restart when Dan Thomas charged down a kick, while Deago Bailey’s feet were just in touch as he later dived over in the corner, before Byrne finally scored Bristol’s third try from close range.

Van Wyk was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Genge in the build-up to the try and the man advantage swung the finale in Bristol’s favour.

Genge pounced on a loose ball which helped unleash Ibitoye down the wing to level the score with five minutes on the clock, before MacGinty missed a match-winning penalty right at the death.

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam told BBC Radio Bristol:

“Very proud of the boys, we started really well and then we just got for some reason on the wrong end of the penalty count – don’t get me wrong, some of them were definitely penalties but 10-0, I don’t think I’ve been in a game with a 10-0 penalty count.

“What that means is you’re double banking on your work, suddenly they’ve got free entry into your half and you’re defending.

“The yellow card, we conceded three tries, with some tremendous defence but penalty after penalty.

“After half-time we talked about it, we were down 11 points and we almost scored straight after half-time.

“But the boys’ character to keep going and keep going, to then go four tries and have an opportunity to win it.”

Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick told BBC Radio Leicester:

“I think overriding in the changing room downstairs there’s a lot of disappointment. With 15 minutes to go we were 26-12 up, I think we should push on at that point, we looked in quite a lot of control.

“Unfortunately then an opportunity for field position for them and then a sending-off, and then the last 15 minutes became difficult.

“For a large part of the game I thought we looked in control of it, I was really pleased. It was great to see our squad coming together having now played nine games, in the ninth game you’re just about almost getting your squad together.

“There’ll be some good things to take on it and we’ll certainly look how we can manage that last part of the game better.”

Bristol Bears: Piutau; Bailey, Radradra, O’Conor, Ibitoye;, Sheedy, Porter; Genge, Byrne, Lahiff, Batley, Vui, Luatua (c), Lewis, Heenan.

Replacements: Thacker, Woolmore, Tyack, Hawkins, Thomas, Uren, MacGinty, Jenkins.

Sin-bin: Radradra (28 mins)

Leicester Tigers: Steward; Ashton, Porter, Kelly, Watson; Burns, Youngs; Whitcombe, Montoya, Cole, Wells, Chessum, Liebenberg (c), Reffell, Wiese.

Replacements: Clare, Van Wyk, Heyes, Snyman, Martin, Van Poortvliet, Atkinson, Potter.

Red card: Van Wyk (64 mins)

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys.

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