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Aaron Mauger eyes play-offs after Leicester Tigers maul Bristol

Interim boss Aaron Mauger insisted Leicester would reach the Aviva Premiership play-offs after they thrashed bottom club Bristol 50-17 at Welford Road.

That prospect did not look likely just over a week ago when Leicester were languishing in seventh place, but 10 points from successive home wins over Gloucester and Bristol have lifted them to fifth, four points behind Bath.

Head coach Mauger, put in charge until the end of the season after the sacking last month of director of rugby Richard Cockerill, was delighted with a second successive highest score of the season and feels Leicester are now going in the right direction.

He said: "We were never out of it, we have always been in contention for the play-offs.

"We believe we will be there at the end. The confidence we have taken from the last two performances is really good for us.

"The belief has always been there so it's nice to trigger that with some good performances."

Against Bristol, it was a display that drew praise from Leicester players who were not involved.

Mauger said: "Freddie Burns came into the changing room afterwards and said, 'How good was that! I wish I'd been out there, the backs got an armchair ride'.

"We talked about playing with more confidence, backing our skills and being decisive and we have done that in the last couple of weeks.

"The physicality has been outstanding. Mike Williams was a wrecking ball out there today and Luke Hamilton was outstanding.

"We put pressure on their ball, forcing them to play from deep. We talked about having a lot of desire without the ball and our focus is to get the ball back.

"Our defence was really good, although we leaked a couple of soft tries which was disappointing.

"We want to keep our feet on the ground because there are plenty of things we can do better. The last 20 minutes was a bit disappointing. I thought we could have put our foot on their throat and put them away proper."

Mauger said he was "still working" on finding a back-up fly-half to George Ford, who is returning next season after a spell at Bath. Burns is joining Bath and Owen Williams is going to Gloucester.

Leicester, who have scored 84 points and 12 tries in two games, were much too strong for a Bristol side who were making their first appearance in Leicester since 2009 when they were hammered 73-3 at Leicester City's ground and were relegated.

This game was over by half-time when the Tigers led 31-10, having scored five tries in 17 frantic minutes, with South Africa Test winger JP Pietersen (twice) and full-back Telusa Veainu scoring on their return from long-term injuries.

Prop Pat Cilliers and fly-half Owen Williams also scored and after the interval Leicester got three more through flanker Brendon O'Connor, winger Adam Thompstone and prop Greg Bateman. Williams converted five.

Bristol's 13th defeat of the season leaves them rooted to the bottom and they are now six points adrift of Worcester, who got a bonus point in the defeat by Exeter.

Hooker Rob Hawkins and replacement prop Jamal Ford-Robinson scored tries, converted by full-back Jason Woodward.

Acting head coach Mark Tainton said: "We spoke about physicality and looking after the ball and we did neither.

"We turned over too much ball and that allowed them too much field position.

"Against a good Premiership side you are going to struggle if you do that. We fell off tackles and allowed them to get line breaks, and they got the scoreboard moving, so by half-time the game was gone.

"We fought back in the second half but the frustration for us was that we got to within five metres of their line seven times and seven times they gave away penalties.

"Obviously we weren't going to kick them. They managed to play the referee better that we did."

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