Leicester won a nerve-racking Heineken Cup tie on Sunday as they overcame Toulouse 9-5 in a match hampered by snowy conditions.
Leicester won one of the most nerve-racking Heineken Cup ties in recent memory on Sunday as they overcame Toulouse 9-5 in snowy conditions.
There was drama until the final whistle at Welford Road as the Tigers were made to sweat in icy cold weather but ultimately held on to prevail.
Leicester will travel to Toulon in the quarter-final while Toulouse drop into the Amlin Challenge Cup where they face a trip to USA Perpignan.
However, the French giants will no doubt wonder how they lost this clash in England after failing to convert seventeen points from the kicking tee.
Leicester came out of the blocks in hot form and almost caught Toulouse napping when Niall Morris denied himself an early try when losing the ball from his grasp just inches from the right touchline. However, Leicester did earn some reward for their strong start when Toby Flood knocked over a tough penalty from wide out.
From ten minutes until twenty though, Toulouse suddenly were in the ascendancy but missed penalties from Lionel Beauxis (2) and Luke McAlister handed Leicester a real lifeline as points were always going to be critical playing in such inclement weather. In truth, Beauxis was having a poor start.
The French kicking duo were not alone in missing from the tee though as Flood missed from distance soon after before making amends on the 32nd minute, nervously side-footing one over to double the Tigers lead before the hosts were holding their breath for a very different reason close to their own whitewash. The moment arrived via the destructive Louis Picamoles who, after a long TMO query, was adjudged to have been held up over the line.
And Leicester certainly made the most of that call as Flood kicked a 50-metre penalty after Gregory Lamboley pulled down recently re-signed Tiger Geoff Parling at a line-out.
Guy Noves had obviously given his players a tongue lashing in the relative warmth of the dressing rooms and his side came out looking to put points on the board, once again their pack running hard. However, the choice from Beauxis to look for a drop-goal came to zero.
Home relief was not to last though as when Tait was beaten by McAlister's high tester, Yoann Huget was first to react and grounded over the line for a 9-5 scoreline. Beauxis was back on kicking duty for Toulouse but again it was to be an unsuccessful shot from the 10.
Toulouse's kicking woes continued going into the final quarter as McAlister was off-target with his second attempt but there was a feeling that Leicester were struggling to deal with the gameplan, which mixed physicality with the kick-chase. Welford Road was eerily quiet.
Leicester had to survive ten minutes down to fourteen men late on as Flood was sent to the sin-bin after having a kick charged down and knocking the ball on to stop a Toulouse attack.
But the gritty Tigers were in no mood to let victory slip away after having missed out on the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for two of the last three seasons and they held on to ensure they topped Pool Two and set up a mouth-watering clash against Toulon in April.
Pen: Flood 3
Yellow card: Flood (67 mins)
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Scott Hamilton.
Toulouse: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Gregory Lamboley, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Yohan Montes, 19 Romain Millo-Chluski, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Jean Bouilhou, 23 Maxime Medard.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)