Bonus point start for Leicester

Date published: November 13 2015

Brendan O'Connor turned in an outstanding performance on his Leicester debut in a 33-20 win over Stade Français in the Champions Cup.

The England-qualified flanker, signed from Super Rugby outfit the Blues, won over the home crowd and received a substantial ovation when replaced in the second-half.

The Top 14 champions started fast at Welford Road but were reeled by the physical Tigers, who finished with four tries to take away maximum points from their opening game.

A five-day turnaround had resulted in Stade Français making nine changes to their side but despite producing plenty of exciting moves in attack with the ball in hand, finishing with three tries, they didn't have enough to respond to a Leicester outfit oozing confidence.

The Tigers missed out on last season's quarter-finals but after three wins from four in the Premiership and another convincing victory here, new head coach Aaron Mauger will be thrilled with his side's immediate progress.

Leicester's dominant start, which included a disallowed try for Peter Betham, was cancelled out by a sensational try from the visitors, Julien Tomas rounding off a move that started deep in his own half. 

Sensational offloading from Hugo Bonneval and Arias ended with the scrum-half dotting down in the corner.

Morné Steyn couldn't add the conversion but a penalty from the Springbok number ten extended Stade's lead to 8-0 from over 50 metres out.

O'Connor's first key play, winning a turnover at the breakdown, resulted in Vereniki Goneva crossing in reply to put Leicester on the board at 8-5 after half an hour.

The Welford Road crowd didn't have to wait as long for a second try, five minutes in fact, with Goneva doing the damage out wide with a diving finish.

Owen Williams couldn't land the conversion but the hosts still went into the sheds ahead at 12-8 with the crowd having come to life.

New signing O'Connor then capped off a memorable debut with a try of his own, scooping up a loose ball and sprinting home marshalled well by Adam Thompstone for Leicester's third try.

Three more points from the boot of Williams stretched Leicester's advantage to 20-8 and the hosts were well in control.

Stade though refused to lie down, producing a fine series of offloads to pick open the Leicester defence before Paul Williams managed to cross the line.

Steyn's conversion had the visitors suddenly right back in the contest at 20-15 only for England scrum-half Ben Youngs to strike with the bonus-point try.

With Stade questioning a penalty against them given by referee John Lacey, Youngs opted for a quick tap and caught out the napping defence to secure their fourth try.

A second penalty from Williams looked to have put Leicester home and dry at 30-15 before Arias scored his team's third try after confirmation from the TMO to keep the contest relatively alive.

Wary of a possible comeback and despite a magnificent scrum Leicester opted to kick a final penalty through Seremaia Bai rather than go for a fifth try, wrapping up a strong start to the Champions Cup for the two-time winners.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Goneva, M Smith, O'Connor, B Youngs
Cons: O Williams 2
Pens: O Williams 2, Bai

For Stade Français:
Tomas, P Williams, Arias
Cons: Steyn
Pens: Steyn

Leicester:  15 Mathew Tait (c), 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Michael Fitzgerald, 5 Mike Williams, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Seremaia Bai, 23 Telusa Veainu.

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Paul Williams, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Sylvain Nicolas, 6 Patrick Sio, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Adrien Oleon, 2 Laurent Panis, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Dany Priso, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Waisea, 23 Josaia Raisuqe.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)