Bristol Bears player ratings from Leicester Tigers win - 'A cameo to go down in folklore'

Bristol Bears defied the odds and logic to overturn a 19-point deficit with 11 minutes remaining to beat Leicester Tigers 21-19 at Welford Road on Saturday in Round 16 of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership.

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 Bristol had other ideas and recorded a famous away win.

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

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

15. Rich Lane - 6

Drafted into the starting side late in the day after England star Max Malins withdrew, the full-back bottled his key moment in the game as he broke the line and sped off into Tigers territory with both his wingers flanking him in support but Jack van Poortvliet got back to tackle him from behind and shut down the opportunity.

14. Siva Naulago - 6

The winger has very few opportunities to shine with ball in hand as more often than not a pass got dropped before it reached him, with passes not sticking all over the place. The Fijian still managed to land a couple of sizeable trademark tackles though.

13. Benhard Janse van Rensburg - 6

The centre had his least influential game in weeks as Tigers clearly targetted rushing up and closing down his channel. Still found ways to make metres though. Went off with a HIA from the high tackle that led to Mike Brown's second yellow card of the game and subsequent dismissal.

12. James Williams - 6

After surviving an injury scare late in last weekend’s win over Newcastle Falcons, Williams was passed fit to start in midfield and made the first great break of the game for the Bears as he sliced through the middle of the Leicester defence, but like many others for at least 69 minutes of the game, he failed to get an accurate pass away to those supporting him.

11. Gabriel Ibitoye - 7

The winger has become the embodiment of this team’s ethos of running the ball from everywhere and he was still doing so until the very last seconds, making a key contribution in the final break to set up Bradbury’s try, waving the ball around in one hand. Picked up a yellow card through little fault of his own as referee Matthew Carley got fed up of the one-way parade of penalties coming from the Bears in the first half.

10. AJ MacGinty - 6

The fly-half was a long way off his best as his normal silky hands let him down on a couple of occasions with two bad drops that put Bristol under significant pressure close to their own try line as they looked to run the ball out from deep. And yet, he gave a stunning offload to Harry Thacker to make a burst down-field in the closing moments, made a try-saving tackle on Hanro Liebenberg just before half-time and showed great composure to land the last-minute crucial conversion, albeit it was a relatively easy kick. Involved in a positive way in plenty of key moments.

9. Harry Randall - 7

The number nine drove the pace of the game when Bristol had possession but they were starved of it for much of the first hour. Battling against a fellow contender for a place in the England side in Jack van Poortvliet, it was a very even battle with Randall causing a right nuisance at the back of the scrum for his opposite number and Jasper Wiese. His ability to punch above his weight in defence was evident again with a crucial try-saving tackle on hooker Julián Montoya

1. Ellis Genge - 7

Back on his old stomping grounds, the former Leicester Tigers captain held his own in the scrum against the old war horse Dan Cole and carried hard in the loose. He was also a constant wasp in the ear of referee Matthew Carley. Should have had a try assist but his clever little pass back to Gabriel Oghre was harshly ruled to have gone forward.

2. Gabriel Oghre - 7

The hooker had what looked like a good try from a cleverly worked trick lineout, with ‘front lifter’ Ellis Genge taking the ball on the ground and popping it back to the hooker to trot in down the tramlines, scrubbed off for an alleged forward pass that looked very flat. Oghre was a workhorse all game, counter-rucking, tackling and offering himself as a runner.

3. Kyle Sinckler - 7

The prop had a very solid display in the scrum as he seemed to win the head-to-head battle with James Cronin to earn a couple of penalties. The England star carried well in the loose but did knock on from a pre-called 5m tap penalty move that cost Bristol a shot of opening their scoring.

4. James Dun - 7

The lock went toe-to-toe with a pair of England locks and held his ground as part of a well-functioning Bears scrum and line out.

5. Joe Batley - 8

Having recovered from a pair of broken ribs against Gloucester, the lock - who spent a spell on loan at Leicester Tigers - had another hugely influential display, making a key turnover at a ruck and managing to strip the ball out of the grasps of Wiese while the South African international number eight was running a devilish line that looked try-bound. Batly has become so important to this side.

6. Steven Luatua - 7

The Samoan international had a day where his impressive work at the breakdown didn’t get the rewards it deserved as he was penalised on a couple of occasions while going for turnovers. Still, Bristol and Luatua managed to make every ruck a dogfight to really down the delivery of the ball and the flanker played a pivotal role in the Bears’ second try as he latched onto the hip of Lahiff to drive him into the promised land.

7. Fitz Harding - 7

The skipper showed off his engine on Saturday as he was constantly in the thick of the action on both sides of the ball, making vital carries in the closing stages in the build-up to Bradbury’s try and walked away with TNT Sports' official player of the match award.

8. Magnus Bradbury - 8

With the club having this week confirmed the Scottish international’s exit at the end of the season, he proved to be the hero at Welford Road, bundling through a double tackle that included impressive England lock Ollie Chessum, to score the game-winning try, reaching out to dot the ball down.


16. Harry Thacker - 9

The hooker, back from four months out due to concussion, blew the game to pieces against his old club with multiple linebreaks and then long carries to take the Bears from deep within their own territory into the opposition's 22. Simply stunning.

17. Jake Woolmore - 8

The Bears' scrum simply got stronger as the game went on as Bristol’s frontrow replacements seemed to have the beating of their counterparts.

18. Max Lahiff - 10

The smile on his face when he breached the line for his second try of the game said even he couldn’t believe what was going on. Powerful in the scrum, even more mighty from a couple of metres out although the second try owed a huge debt to the work of Luatua to help drive him over the whitewash. A cameo display that will go into Bristol rugby folklore.

19. Josh Caulfield - 8

The lock brought immediate physicality to the pitch as he blew through rucks and helped Bristol finish fast at Welford Road.

20. Jake Heenan - 7

The flanker had potentially his most significant moment of the season as he burst down the left wing before keeping the ball alive in the long-range strike that eventually ended in Bradbury scoring.

21. Kieran Marmion - 8

The scrum-half brought calmness amongst the chaos of Bristol’s all-court attacking game when it was needed most, slowing things down inside the Leicester 22 to ensure the Bears were clinical with their red-zone visits.

22. Virimi Vakatawa - 7

The French international was repeatedly involved and on the spot as a link runner when Bristol broke the line in the closing moments. An absolute ace to be able to play off the bench against tired bodies.

23. Piers O’Conor - 6

The centre was drafted into the side late in the day following Max Malins’ withdrawal.