|Bristol (13) 26|
|Tries: Harding, Lloyd Pens: Sheedy 4 Cons: Sheedy 2|
|Leicester (10) 28|
|Tries: Nadolo, Montoya, Porter Pens: Ford 3 Cons: Ford 2|
Leicester scored an 84th-minute try with 14 men to win at Bristol and make it 10 wins from 10 Premiership matches.
The Tigers were staring at defeat until they patiently worked the ball wide for Guy Porter to score in dramatic style.
Fitz Harding finished a Bristol counter but Nemani Nadolo scored after fine footwork to leave Tigers three behind.
Ioan Lloyd’s try put Bristol 23-13 up but Julian Montoya went over from a rolling maul and George Ford marshalled play for Porter to give Tigers victory.
At 26-23 down a drop-goal would have been enough for Leicester to preserve their unbeaten record this season but, despite having Jasper Wiese sin-binned for the closing stages, they played phase after phase until Porter was able to profit for his first Premiership try.
The four-point triumph leaves Steve Borthwick’s side eight points clear of second-placed Saracens, who thrashed Worcester, while a losing bonus point will be little consolation for a Bristol side who remain second-bottom after just three wins from 10 games.
There was a great scrum battle throughout between home prop Kyle Sinckler and Leicester captain Ellis Genge, who will join the Bears next season, which stoked up an already-raucous 20,761-strong crowd at Ashton Gate.
The impressive Harry Randall swooped on a dropped Tigers ball on halfway and rode a challenge to set up Harding for the game’s opening try and, while Bristol absorbed pressure well, they could do nothing to stop Matias Moroni deftly teeing up Nadolo for an excellent kick and finish.
Quick-thinking from England scrum-half Randall allowed the returning Semi Radradra to offload for Lloyd to put Bristol in a commanding position, but Leicester fought back to 23-23 to set up a grandstand finish.
When Wiese was sin-binned for a late tackle on Sheedy – who slotted the resulting penalty after missing his previous two kicks at goal – it looked a long way back for Tigers, but they dug deep to make it 14 wins out of 14 in all competitions, with this perhaps the most satisfying.
Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam:
“I have been on both sides and I feel for the players and I feel for the supporters because it was a great game.
“We had five minutes to go and we had moments there to finish the game off and cap off a very, very good performance. It wasn’t to be.
“You have got to give credit to Leicester. They are having a great season and are top of the league.
“It doesn’t take away from what we did because of the effort but it is hard because of the result. Most of the game, the boys stuck to the script.”
Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick:
“We made errors in the game and weren’t perfect, but one thing that is unquestionable about these guys is their fight. Whatever gets thrown at them, they keep finding a way to overcome it and that is credit to them.
“There are things we will do a lot better and we will fix some things, but the way the players thought through the game was outstanding.
“The supporters have a lot of pride in this team and I am delighted for them that we can bring them some joy. We will enjoy this game and then get on with next weekend.
“There are always things you want to do better but I really enjoy seeing the players go out there and fight as hard as they can. They show what it means and I enjoy that.”
Bristol: Piutau; Fricker, Radradra, Bedlow, Lloyd; Sheedy, Randall; Thomas, Thacker, Sinckler, Joyce, Vui, Luatua (capt), Jeffries, Harding.
Replacements: Capon, Woolmore, Lahiff, Hawkins, Heenan, Uren, O’Conor, Purdy.
Leicester: Steward; Potter, Moroni, Kelly, Nadolo; Ford, B Youngs; Genge (capt), Montoya, Cole, Wells, Green, Martin, Reffell, Van Staden.
Replacements: Dolly, Leatigaga, Heyes, Chessum, Wiese, Wigglesworth, Hegarty, Porter.
Sin-bin: Wiese (72 mins)
Referee: Tom Foley.