Leicester overpowered rivals Bristol at Welford Road to claim top spot in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP. The Tigers ran in six tries to inflict only the second defeat of Bristol’s season and move ahead on points difference.
Bristol were torn apart after a scrappy opening quarter and Leicester crossed three times in each half.
The visitors struggled to cope with the cold, misty conditions and a fired-up Leicester team who chalked up their fifth win from their last six games in all competitions.
Both sides made wholesale changes to their teams with Leicester leaving out England internationals Martin Corry, Lewis Moody, Andy Goode and Harry Ellis.
Julian White came into the front row for his first start since October 29 and Bristol head coach Richard Hill left Shaun Perry and Mark Regan on the bench.
Both sides struggled early on with Bristol coming closest to grabbing an early lead before being dealt a blow after 10 minutes.
The touch judge spotted lock Mariano Sambucetti stamping on Louis Deacon and he was sin-binned.
Leicester piled on the pressure and Ian Humphreys opened the scoring with a penalty after 15 minutes. Bristol replied two minutes later with a Jason Strange penalty.
Humphreys then unlocked the visitors’ defence after 23 minutes. Humphreys launched a deft chip over the top despite being under pressure near the left-hand touchline and Shane Jennings gathered to race through unopposed and touched down between the posts.
Humphreys added a conversion to open up a 10-3 lead after 23 minutes following a spell of heavy pressure. They forced a series of five-metre scrums and Humphreys darted over after 29 minutes to open up a 15-3 lead.
Leicester piled on the pressure and grabbed a third try in the sixth minute of injury time when Jordan Crane was driven over. Humphreys added a conversion to open up a 22-3 lead at the interval.
Strange and Leicester centre Matt Cornwell were involved in a fight after the try and both were sin-binned by referee Tony Spreadbury.
Humphreys was replaced at the break to rest the hamstring strain that had kept him out of the previous two games.
Paul Burke replaced him and was the architect of the try that secured a bonus point for Leicester five minutes after the restart.
Tom Varndell scooped his perfectly weighted grubber kick and accelerated away to the line for a try that Burke converted.
Dan Hipkiss put Leicester further clear five minutes later when he crossed unopposed after taking Sam Vesty’s pass in his stride.
Burke converted to make it 36-3 and he added the extras again after Deacon had ploughed over from close range after 58 minutes. Burke added the conversion.
David Lemi restored some pride for Bristol with a 64th-minute try that Strange converted and he crossed again after 75 minutes.