|Leicester Tigers 50|
|Tries: Cilliers, O Williams, Pietersen (2), Veainu, O’Connor, Thompstone, Bateman Cons: O Williams (5)|
|Tries: Hawkins, Ford-Robinson Cons: Woodward (2) Pens: Woodward|
JP Pietersen scored two tries on his debut in a blistering performance as Leicester Tigers thumped Bristol Rugby 50-17 at Welford Road.
The South African international was the man of the moment, bagging two of Tigers’ eight tries on a chilly afternoon of high octane Premiership rugby.
Debutant Pietersen joked after the match that he needed to lose weight despite dazzling Welford Road with an accomplished performance. He told reporters that he “enjoyed the best performance to date. Welford Road is always a special place, you can feel the atmosphere and it was amazing to play in one of the best stadiums in rugby”.
The charismatic full-back was also full of praise for team-mate Telusa Veainu, calling him a ‘special talent’ and a “nightmare for Bristol’s defence”, in a match he believes shows that Tigers have turned a corner.
The bonus point win leaves Tigers just four points off play-off qualification after a turbulent domestic campaign which saw head coach Richard Cockerill dismissed at the start of the year.
But any signs of a Leicester Tigers crisis were few and far between as Tigers blew Bristol away from start to finish. Tigers started brightly, immediately looking to penetrate down the right-hand side but Bristol drew first blood when Jason Woodward scored an 8th minute penalty.
Tigers interim boss Aaron Mauger aimed for an intense start and despite the initial setback, he got what he wished for. From then on, Tigers took hold of the tie, the ante was upped and the hosts began to penetrate the visitors’ faltering backline, only having to wait five minutes before they got on the scoreboard themselves.
Star men Telusa Veainu and JP Pietersen linked up well driving the Tigers forward allowing Pat Cilliers to score the home side’s first try of the match. It wasn’t long before the home fans were on the feet again as attack after attack eventually led to a second Tigers try, and first conversion, scored by kicker Owen Williams.
The hosts could smell an easy win and continued to ask questions of a Bristol Rugby side increasingly wracked with frustration. Their endeavour soon paid off as Tigers scored three tries in five minutes, giving them a comfortable 31-3 lead, putting the match to bed with just 30 minutes on the clock.
JP Pietersen waltzed to two tries for himself either side of Veainu’s success in the 27th minute. Whilst Pietersen will take many of the plaudits for scoring two tries on his home debut, it was Veainu who was setting the match alight with a high-octane performance that left Bristol’s props dead on their feet.
Bristol had resorted to hopeful punting in a first half completely dominated by the home side but find some joy at the end of the first half when Hawkins finally broke the hosts down to score the visitors first try of the game just before the interval.
The opening forays of the second half lacked the gusto and intent of the first, but Tigers were still on top. The sixth home try summed up Bristol’s afternoon as O’Connor blocked a kick close to the try line and ran unchallenged to take the scoreline to 38-10.
It got even worse for Bristol just eight minutes later as Tigers got their seventh try of the afternoon. Fittingly, it was leading try-scorer Adam Thompstone who took Tigers to their highest score of the season.
From then on, Bristol did well to keep the Tigers at bay as they continued to bear their teeth. However, the visitors had found their defensive resilience far too late. The dye had already been cast and the brute strength of substitute Greg Bateman proved it when he battered Bristol’s defence to score an eighth try in the 67th minute.
With the clock ticking down, Bristol managed to find some reward from an arduous afternoon in the East Midlands. They pushed forward and scored the final try of the match coming from Jamal Ford-Robinson, a substitute of their own, taking the final score to 50-17.