Madigan leads Bristol to comfortable win over Leicester
Geordan Murphy’s Leicester side reduced to 14 men as Kyle Eastmond sent off
Ian Madigan of Bristol Bears celebrates during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bristol Bears and Leicester Tigers. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images
And the numerical disadvantage proved way too much for them as Bristol romped to a bonus-point victory to move above Leicester in the table, with the visitors suffering a sixth successive loss in all competitions.
Hooker Harry Thacker rocked his former club by claiming two tries - he scored a hat-trick against Wasps last weekend - while wing Luke Morahan and scrumhalf Harry Randall each claimed virtuoso touchdowns and Madigan kicked five penalties and three conversions for a 21-point haul.
Leicester, despite welcoming back Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, George Ford and Ben Youngs from England duty, were ruthlessly torn apart, with a scant consolation arriving through an early Tuilagi try, and Ford added a conversion and penalty.
It was Bristol’s first victory over Leicester for 11 years, and their biggest Premiership win since beating Bedford 57-19 in 2000.
Leicester saw England prop Ellis Genge make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury, while Bristol included Thacker and his fellow ex-Tigers forward Jordan Crane as they targeted a third league victory this term, and Thacker made a dream start.
He added another touchdown to his collection inside two minutes after wing Alapati Leiua received Madigan’s inside pass before surging clear and finding Thacker in support, who crossed unopposed with Leicester’s defence shredded.
Madigan converted, and he kicked a penalty eight minutes later following a high tackle on Thacker as the home side cruised into a 10-0 lead.
Leicester looked at sixes and sevens, especially in defence, but Tuilagi provided some inspiration just when they needed it, grabbing possession from a ruck and then breaking away to score after brushing off Leiua’s challenge, with Ford’s conversion further cutting the gap.
But Tigers were soon in deep trouble as Eastmond was dismissed following a forceful head-high challenge on Madigan.
Barnes viewed replays of the incident several times before deciding to brandish a red card, and Eastmond could have no complaints as an already testing afternoon for Leicester assumed an even greater degree of difficulty.
Madigan, who was not required to go off for a head injury assessment, dusted himself down to kick the resulting penalty, but Bristol did not help themselves when prop John Afoa was sin-binned for an illegal tackle on Tigers’ England wing May, and Ford’s penalty made it 13-10.
Another Madigan penalty then restored Bristol’s six-point advantage, before Thacker added his second try after collecting flanker Steven Luatua’s pass, with Barnes awarding the score following video checks that Luatua had not been held in a tackle during the build-up.
Bristol then turned a solid lead into an unassailable one by claiming two stunning solo scores during a devastating six-minute spell.
Morahan pounced for the first, finishing brilliantly from 30 metres as he left May in his slipstream, then Randall took a quick penalty and beat five players, with two more Madigan conversions taking Bristol 35-10 ahead.
Two further Madigan penalties eased Bristol past 40 points, and the final whistle could not arrive quickly enough for Leicester, who were left to reflect on a shambolic afternoon in the west country.