Bristol extended their advantage at the top of the Gallagher Premiership to six points with a hard-fought 17-3 win over a spirited Leicester at Ashton Gate but the league leaders struggled to overcome weakened opponents.
Leicester made numerous changes following last week’s home win over Wasps and their young side frustrated the Bears in the first half-hour.
The sin-binning of their centre Matias Maroni proved decisive as Bristol scored 14 points in his absence.
Will Capon and Piers O’Conor scored Bristol’s tries, with Ioan Lloyd adding two conversions and a penalty, while Joaquin Diaz Bonilla kicked a penalty for Leicester.
Bristol made an all-action start but it took them until the 12th minute to carve out a real chance to open the scoring.
Lloyd was given the opportunity to kick a straightforward penalty but the Bears elected for an attacking lineout, overthrowing and squandering the chance.
The hosts persisted with their option of not taking kickable penalties but twice in quick succession they again blew their opportunity as again their lineout malfunctioned.
Leicester then had their first chance at points but they could not take them either as fly-half Bonilla was off target with a 45-metre penalty attempt.
The first quarter therefore finished scoreless as determined tackling from the visitors continued to frustrate their opponents and their commitment would have been rewarded if Bonilla’s 40-metre penalty from in front of the posts had not fallen short.
Two minutes later the outside half had a similar kick and this time he made no mistake to give the Tigers a 29th-minute lead.
Asafo Aumua is an absolute monster ? His second try of the day!
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 27, 2021
However Moroni was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on which proved costly as first Capon finished off a driving lineout before a well-constructed move from a scrum 10 metres out saw Luke Morahan send O’Conor over. Lloyd converted both to give his side a deserved 14-3 lead.
Soon after the restart Bristol took off the impressive Morahan, with Leicester introducing first-choice forwards Dan Cole and Calum Green.
Lloyd extended Bristol’s lead with a simple penalty but that was the precursor for the Tigers to have their best period of the match as the visitors’ front row caused their counterparts continual problems in the scrum, but they lacked the attacking nous to capitalise.
Lloyd’s penalty was the only score of an evenly contested second half, with Leicester emerging with great credit for competing toe to toe with the league leaders for most of the match.
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