Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick claims that a second-half red card to Francois van Wyk played a big role in opening the door for a late charge by Bristol Bears to draw the game 26-26 at Ashton Gate.
Van Wyk’s card came after the front-row landed a high challenge on Ellis Genge, and Bristol were quick to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Hooker Bryan Bryne and wing Gabriel Ibitoye scored tries converted by AJ MacGinty to bring their side level after being down several points with only 15 minutes to go.
The kicker had a chance to win the game for Bristol but missed a penalty in the game’s last play.
“The first 10 minutes we made a couple of mistakes, which gave them field position and gave them their first score,” Borthwick said.
“I thought the players did really well after that point in time and, ultimately, with 15 minutes to go, we were 26-12 up, so you wouldn’t expect that to finish 26-all.
“The sending-off was a big factor within that, but it wasn’t the only factor. There were a couple of turnovers that gave them field positions.
“You can’t give a team of that standard as many opportunities as we did. We want 15 men on the pitch.
“Our discipline was excellent in the first half, when we didn’t concede a penalty. You could see how hard we work on our discipline, but down to 14 men you have to play a very smart game.”
With England head coach Eddie Jones’ time at the helm of the Red Rose looking as if it may come to an end, Borthwick’s name has been thrown in the hat as a potential successor for the Australian-born coach.
The Rugby Football Union is currently conducting a review and will deliver the verdict on Jones’ future in the coming week.
Focus on the club despite speculation
Borthwick, however, maintains that his focus is on the club and that the communication with the RFU is around the England players in his squad.
“You know that the club coaches are always in contact with the RFU and talking about a big contingent of England players,” he said.
“I am always talking around my England players, and that is my focus here.”
Meanwhile, Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam hailed his team’s character for their impressive comeback and insisted there is still “a long way to go” in the Premiership.
“We started off really well, and then we got on the wrong end of the penalty count and it meant we were double-banking on our work,” Lam said.
“We had a yellow card, it was penalty after penalty and we conceded three tries. We were down 11 points, but the boys’ character…they kept going and going.
“There is disappointment but we are on the right track. The boys are working extremely hard.
“We will keep working and keep pushing. There is a long way to go in this competition.”