Bristol open new season with impressive home win over lethargic Leicester

Man of the match Gabriel Ibitoye scored two tries as Bristol opened the Gallagher Premiership season in style with an impressive 25-14 win over lethargic Leicester at Ashton Gate.

The Tigers seemed half asleep as the Bears’ wing scored twice in the first half hour as the hosts built up an unassailable 25-0 lead from which the visitors could not recover.

Harry Thacker was also on the try-scoring sheet for Bristol with AJ MacGinty adding two conversions. James Williams added two penalties.

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Dan Kelly and Hanro Liebenberg crossed for Leicester, with Charlie Atkinson and Jamie Shillcock each adding a conversion.

Bristol made an explosive start, taking the lead in the second minute. A misdirected kick from Leicester scrum-half Joe Powell gave the hosts an attacking line-out from where they capitalised when Ibitoye raced onto a well-judged kick from Rich Lane to score.

MacGinty missed with the touchline conversion as did Atkinson with a 45-metre penalty attempt, so Ibitoye’s try was the only score of the opening quarter in which the home side looked the sharper as Leicester continued to make elementary mistakes.

From one of these handling errors, Ibitoye seized on the loose ball to kick it 60 metres and then win a line-out five metres from the opposition line. From there, Bears produced an unstoppable drive which culminated in a try for Thacker.

Straight from the kick-off, Bristol scored again. The irrepressible Ibitoye was sent on a weaving 35-metre run which ended with him just holding off the attentions of Cameron Henderson to grab the touchdown. MacGinty converted both and shell-shocked Tigers were 19-0 down.

However MacGinty was soon forced to leave the field with a leg problem, soon to be followed by prop Jay Tyack, who suffered a serious looking arm injury.

These setbacks did not deter the home side, who extended their lead with a Williams’ penalty to leave toothless Tigers 22 points adrift at the interval.

Three minutes after the restart the lead was extended when Williams kicked another penalty, before Leicester made a couple of changes in an attempt to reverse their fortunes.

It paid immediate dividends when one of the replacements, former Bristol man Tom Whiteley, chipped ahead and when the home defence dithered Kelly took advantage to steal possession and score.

Bristol brought on former captain Stephen Luatua and new signing Virimi Vakatawa, the French international centre, but it was the visitors who collected the only points of the final quarter when a well-timed pass from Whiteley sent Liebenberg over.

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