Bristol Bears come back from 19 points down to beat Leicester Tigers away

Bristol Bears came back from the dead at Welford Road to overturn a 19-point deficit and beat Leicester Tigers 21-19 thanks to a Magnus Bradbury try in the 80th minute.

Bristol cemented their place in the play-off positions with a three-try smash-and-grab job on the road, exploiting a second yellow card for Tigers winger Mike Brown which saw the hosts go down to 14 men for the final eight minutes of the game. Brown was penalised in the first half for a cynical playing off the ball on the ground and then late in the game for an unfortunate head-to-head collision with Benhard Janse van Rensburg.

READ MORE: Leicester Tigers 19-21 Bristol Bears LIVE reaction and highlights from vital away win

The Bears replacements made a huge impact in the tie, with Harry Thacker exploding off the bench, after the starters had tenderised Leicester without benefitting on the scoreboard. Max Lahiff touched down for a brace of short-range tries before Bradbury finished a free-flowing attacking move that started deep in the visitors' own half, stretching out a long arm to level the scores at 19-19 with AJ MacGinty's second successful conversion winning the tie. James Williams also scored a conversion.

Leicester had built what looked like a comfortable lead with a brace of tries for winger Ollie Hassell-Collins before replacement loosehead Francois van Wyk touched down for what at the time looked like a killer blow, with Handre Pollard scoring two of his three conversion attempts. But having seen multiple passes go to deck in the first 69 minutes, Bristol discovered their ruthless streak just in time to salvage a famous win on the road.

Bristol were forced into a late change as Rich Lane came in for Max Malins at full-back and Piers O’Conor stepping up among the replacements in a set-back before kick-off, with the England man struggling with a few niggles.

The visitors conceded a stream of early penalties, with Gabriel Ibitoye paying the price for his side’s indiscipline as he was sent to the sin bin in the 16th minute and it was not long until Leicester finally struck.

From a ruck, Jack Van Poortvliet fed Dan Kelly, whose long pass picked out Hassell-Collins in space to finish down the left, with Handre Pollard converting from out wide. The hosts then lost their one-man advantage as Brown was shown a yellow card by referee Matt Carley for knocking the ball out of the hands of Harry Randall while lying on floor.

Bristol thought they had struck back when hooker Gabriel Oghre scampered the ball clear following a short line-out, but the score was disallowed due to Ellis Genge’s return pass travelling forward. That allowed Leicester to retain their 7-0 lead into half-time, with the hosts being denied soon after the restart when a good tackle by Joe Batley dislodged the ball from the hands of the charging Jasper Wiese.

But the Tigers scored their second try in the 48th minute as the ball went through Kelly and Pollard’s hands before Freddie Steward’s pass put Hassell-Collins in at the corner again. The hosts looked to have the result wrapped up after 65 minutes when replacement prop Francois Van Wyk managed to force his way over from close range, with Pollard’s conversion taking the gap to 19-0.

But Bristol finally got themselves on the board when replacement tighthead Lahiff managed to barge his way through Leicester’s defence, which had been resolute to that point.

The hosts were then down to 14 men when Brown was sent off for a second yellow card. The Bears then ensured a big finish when Lahiff managed to force his way over again with five minutes left, MacGinty’s conversion reducing the deficit to five points. Incredibly, the visitors snatched victory off the final play as Bradbury just about managed to get the ball down near the posts, with MacGinty’s conversion completing a startling turnaround which will live long in the memory.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Mike Brown, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 1 James Cronin, 2 Julián Montoya, 3 Dan Cole, 4 George Martin, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Jasper Wiese

Replacements : 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Phil Cokanasiga

Bristol Bears: 15. Rich Lane, 14. Siva Naulago, 13. Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12. James Williams, 11. Gabriel Ibitoye, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Gabriel Oghre, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. James Dun, 5. Joe Batley, 6. Steven Luatua, 7. Fitz Harding (c), 8. Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: 16. Harry Thacker, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Josh Caulfield, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Kieran Marmion, 22. Virimi Vakatawa, 23. Piers O’Conor.

Referee: Matthew Carley

Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace and Simon Harding

TMO: Rowan Kitt