Bristol stayed firmly in the Gallagher Premiership play-off race after brushing aside Leicester 40-3 at Ashton Gate. An emphatic bonus-point victory – a record league win for Bristol against Leicester – means that a repeat outcome against struggling London Irish on Sunday could set up a top-four finish.

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Bristol will also require one of their play-off rivals Wasps or Bath to lose on the final day of regular season action – they face Exeter and Saracens respectively – but Pat Lam’s men have given themselves every chance. And it was an impressive performance under pressure for league points, even if some of the attacking pyrotechnics that have highlighted recent Bristol displays were absent.

On this occasion, it was the Bristol pack that prospered, with No8 Nathan Hughes, hooker Bryan Byrne and flanker Dan Thomas all scoring tries in the first 45 minutes. Full-back Ioan Lloyd also touched down and replacement Harry Thacker crossed against his former club before Bristol collected an 80th-minute penalty try.

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The Rugby Pod reflects on the end of an era at Saracens

Fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked four conversions, and an inexperienced Leicester side’s solitary scoring response came from Zack Henry’s 24th-minute penalty. It was Tigers’ 14th defeat of a dismal league campaign, and Bristol encountered few problems putting them away.

Lam made ten changes from the side that beat European Challenge Cup semi-final opponents Bordeaux last week, including starts for centre Sam Bedlow, scrum-half Andy Uren and lock Dave Attwood. Leicester, meanwhile, were captained by No8 Thom Smith as head coach Steve Borthwick gave many of his young prospects an opportunity with one eye on next season.

The Tigers were 31 points and six places behind Bristol before kick-off, and the home side twice went close to an early try as wing Niyi Adeolokun and then Attwood threatened Leicester’s line. Pressure told after 18 minutes as Bristol’s forwards established an attacking platform inside the Leicester 22 before Lloyd finished off a slick move and touched down.

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Sheedy’s conversion opened up a seven-point lead, but much of the action was scrappy and error-strewn before a Henry penalty opened Tigers’ account. Bristol had already established a degree of control through their forwards and it came as no surprise when Leicester buckled under scrum pressure eleven minutes before half-time.

The Bristol pack expertly controlled a close-range scrum and Hughes claimed his team’s second try after Leicester retreated, with another Sheedy conversion making it 14-3. Tigers could find no way out of Bristol’s grip and when Leicester scrum-half Ben White received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, they immediately fell further behind.

Another lineout deep inside Leicester’s 22 was just what the Bristol forwards ordered, and this time it was Byrne who emerged with the ball for try number three, and Sheedy’s conversion established an 18-point interval advantage.

Bristol needed just five minutes of the second period to make it mission accomplished as their fourth try went to Thomas and Sheedy again converted. Fijian star Semi Radradra appeared off Bristol’s bench for the final quarter, and he was immediately involved in the action after replacing Lloyd.

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Leicester were now in firm damage-limitation mode, but they could not stop Thacker from darting over, meaning that Bristol led by 30 points with 15 minutes still remaining. A penalty try in the dying seconds took Bristol to 40 points, with Leicester wing Harry Simmons sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

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