Bristol Bears were beaten 46-24 by Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday to dent their Gallagher Premiership semi-final hopes and end a run of four straight victories in the league.

Tigers were 15-10 up at half-time after Harry Thacker’s 10th try of the season was cancelled out by scores from Ben Youngs and Anthony Watson.

Gabriel Ibitoye put Bristol back in front after the break, but Tigers retook control thanks to a double from Julian Montoya and a superb chip and gather score for the outstanding Handre Pollard who finished with 19 points.

Harry Randall scored a late try for the visitors, but it was not enough to inspire a comeback and Charlie Clare crossed the whitewash in the last play to wrap up the win.

South West rugby writer John Evely takes a closer look at the individual performances by the Bristol Bears players....

15. Charles Piutau - 6

The Bears full-back came into the game in a rich vein of form and once again was well used by Bristol who looked to utilise the former All Black as the tip of their blade in attack, but Leicester’s defence marshalled the explosive stepper well, minimising his opportunities.

In the swirling wind, the Tigers also tested Piutau under the high ball with a couple of drops in the wet conditions. Ahead of the match there was plenty of talk of the match-up between veteran Mike Brown and Piutau and I would say the Leicester full-back edged the contest.

14. Ioan Lloyd - 7

The versatile back was a brilliant option to come in for the injured Siva Naulago and was involved in several key moments of the match. He was unlucky to miss out on a try in the first half as his right foot went into touch before he was able to dot the ball down with two Leicester players coming across to close down his space but he sparked a brilliant break in the second half to cut open the home defence and put Randall away for his try.

13. Semi Radradra - 6

The Fijian was largely kept quiet by the Leicester defence and when he did break the line in the second half with Bristol chasing for a bonus point he disappointingly seemed to look for contact rather than trusting his pace and step - of course, the powerful outside centre still got a great offload away but the momentum of the attack had been halted.

Bristol as a team were generally guilty of overplaying in the wet conditions but there were brief snapshots of their wonderful, free-flowing attack in the first half with Radradra, Piutau and Ibitoye combining beautifully.

12. James Williams - 8

The inside centre keeps getting better and better in a Bears jersey as he was one of Bristol’s standout performers, repeatedly getting over the gainline with a combination of powerful running and good line picking. He adjusted well to take a bouncing pass off the turf before racing down-field and feeding Thacker for his side’s opening try and caught the eye with a couple of half breaks later in the contest.

11. Gabriel Ibitoye - 6

The winger got his reward for chasing a kick through from Williams to be on the spot to pick up the fumbled ball from Handre Pollard who dived on the bouncing pill but failed to come up with it under pressure from Randall and Williams.

Added a cheeky conversion with a drop goal after Randall's try as Bristol looked to speed up play to chase a bonus point gaining fourth try which in the end they failed to gain.

10. AJ MacGinty - 6

The fly-half was a dangerous running threat throughout the game and it was his clever pass behind the back of the rush Tigers defence which set Williams free to create the break for the first try of the day.

Despite a decent display he was outshone by his opposite number Handre Pollard who was on top form for Tigers.

Finished with seven points from two successful conversions and a penalty goal.

9. Harry Randall - 6

In a head-to-head between the apprentice and master, with England stars Ben Youngs starting opposite him and Jack van Poortvliet coming off the bench, Randall was unable to find too many gaps against the watertight Tigers defence who also managed to reduce his opportunities to inject a high tempo into the game. The scrum-half still bagged a try late in the game with a wonderful finish, exploding off his right foot to turn the final Tigers defender and then using his pace to race under the posts.

A class act even on a slightly off day.

1. Yann Thomas - 8

Starting ahead of England star Ellis Genge who returned from the Six Nations to take a place on the bench, Thomas performed admirably against Joe Heyes at the coalface with a lot of scrums in the match due to the high number of dropped balls. Pat Lam highlighted post-match that Leicester had 10 put-ins at the scrum in the first half alone and yet Thomas and co’s efforts meant that the setpiece battle was generally a fairly even contest.

2. Harry Thacker - 7

The hooker is a joy to watch as he showed his mobility and athletic ability to be in support of James Williams following a break to take a pass on the edge of the 22 and then had the pace to cross the line, finishing with a dive to deny Pollard the chance of stopping him scoring against his former club.

The two players are very different but Thacker’s opposite number Julián Montoya shaded their head-to-head with a brace of maul tries to cap a fine display. Bristol players being good, but Leicester players being better was in many ways the story of the day.

Unfortunately, he appeared to leave the first limping in some discomfort.

3. Max Lahiff - 7

The Bristol tighthead prop was on his way to having another great game but a head knock saw him removed after 45 minutes. Solid in the scrum, industrious in the loose.

4. Chris Vui - 6

The Bears continue to have problems dealing with restarts and unfortunately, Vui is the man more often than not who they try to position under them. The swirling wind at Welford Road was very difficult to deal with and it is fair to say Bristol didn’t on the day.

5. Magnus Bradbury - 6

The Scottish number eight by trade was shifted into the second row just a couple of minutes before kick-off following an injury to Joe Joyce in the warm-up. He did well in the scrum playing out of position and was still a threat carrying the ball and it looked for all money like he has scored a try just two minutes into the second half when Anthony Watson, coming across to make a cover tackle, slid off him which allowed Bradbury to bounce back up and score. Unfortunately for the Bears, referee Matthew Carley saw the incident differently and penalised him for a double movement and scrubbed off the try.

6. Steven Luatua - 6

The Bristol co-captain was a willing carrier throughout the game but was shown a costly yellow card around the hour mark as Bristol were unable to stop the flow of penalties as they tried to combat Leicester’s catch and drive. The official stats say Tigers conceded just three penalties all match in contrast to Bristol’s 16.

7. Sam Lewis - N/A

The flanker was thrust from the bench to the starting team moments before kick-off and started the game well but suffered what appeared to be a bad ankle injury, unable to support his own weight, which saw him replaced after just six minutes by Dan Thomas who wasn't even meant to be in the matchday squad.

8. Fitz Harding - 6

Harding is such an asset being able to play across the backline and he made a late move from the flank to number eight but had one of his quieter games with opposite number Jasper Wiese making the more eye-catching carries.


16. Fred Davies - 6

17. Ellis Genge - 7

18. George Kloska - 6

19. Jake Heenan - 6

20. Dan Thomas - 8

21. Andy Uren - 6

22. Sam Bedlow - 6

23. Noah Heward - 6

Leicester Tigers player ratings

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mike Brown - 9, 14 Anthony Watson - 9, 13 Matt Scott - 7, 12 Jimmy Gopperth - 7, 11 Harry Potter - 6, 10 Handré Pollard - 9, 9 Ben Youngs - 8; 1 Tom West - 7, 2 Julián Montoya (c) - 9, 3 Joe Heyes - 7, 4 George Martin - 8, 5 Cameron Henderson - 7, 6 Hanro Liebenberg - 7, 7 Olly Cracknell - 7, 8 Jasper Wiese - 9

Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare - 7, 17 James Cronin - 7, 18 Dan Cole - 7, 19 Eli Snyman - 7, 20 Tommy Reffell - 7, 21 Jack van Poortvliet - 7, 22 Charlie Atkinson - 7, 23 Freddie Steward - 7.