Leicester displayed their Heineken Cup title credentials on Saturday, moving joint top of Pool Five after beating the Scarlets 32-18.
Leicester displayed their Heineken Cup title credentials on Saturday, going level on points with Perpignan after overcoming the Scarlets 32-18.
The match had smacked of knockout rugby long before its kick-off and it did not disappoint as it was an entertaining clash that ultimately sees Tigers join the Catalans on seventeen points while the Welsh are two behind on fifteen with one round of what is becoming a humdinger of a Pool.
Next week will see Leicester host Treviso while Scarlets are at the cauldron that is Stade Aime Giral for what will be a tough ask to pull of victory.
Today's game saw Leicester wisely play to their strengths and they won a penalty on ten minutes when Martin Castrogiovanni and Marcos Ayerza earned their wage packet by winning their side three points via the boot of Toby Flood. And the England ten was on the mark again a few minutes later when he knocked over a second penalty after Alesana Tuilagi was taken out off-the-ball by full-back Rhys Priestland. Things weren't looking good for the home part of 12,392.
However as they have proved this season, Scarlets cannot be written off and it was the impressive Morgan Stoddart who was the catalyst and finisher of the move which led to their first try. Just outside his own 22-metre, the Wales international broke and fed Jonathan Davies, who carried before handing the ball to his wing to cap a try that brought the Parc y Scarlets to their feet. Llanelli was rocking when Stephen Jones sent over the conversion.
The volume could have been increased further just before the half-hour too as Gareth Maule came close to crossing but for referee Alain Rolland adjudging him to have made a double movement to get over. There was to be a three-point consolation though for Scarlets after Louis Deacon offended soon after.
And the 10-6 scoreline was how it stayed until the break as the English found out, if they didn't know already, that their hosts must be taken seriously this year. It was all set up for a big second-half with the subplot of a verbal war between Rolland and Castrogiovanni ongoing.
But both those aforementioned points did not last long as first Leicester and then Dan Cole silenced matters. Leicester's first try came in impressive style when quick hands from George Chuter allowed Scott Hamilton – back in the starting team after getting married in New Zealand – to offload to wing Tuilagi for a great score in the corner. However, Flood was missing his kicking boots and only added another three points on 68 minutes after the lively Ben Youngs had scampered down the left wing to silence the unhappy home crowd. This was all after Castrogiovanni had been substituted by England tighthead prop Cole.
New Zealander Thomas Waldrom was sin-binned during the closing minutes, yet Leicester had already done enough and proved they will once again be in the frame with Europe's big boys, with replacement Steve Mafi and Scottish wing Sean Lamont trading scores late on.
Man-of-the-match: It has to be Ben Youngs for his electrifying dart down the wing that came as a double blow to the Scarlets. A mention too for Morgan Stoddart and the Welsh flanks.
Tries: Stoddart, Lamont
Pen: Jones 2
Tries: A Tuilagi, Youngs
Pen: Flood 5
Scarlets: 15 Rhys Priestland, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 Regan King, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 David Lyons, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Vernon Cooper, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Simon Gardner, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Iestyn Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Phil John, 19 Jonny Fa'amatuainu, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Richard Pugh, 22 Martin Roberts, 23 Gareth Maule.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Matt Smith, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Craig Newby, 6 Thomas Waldrom, 5 George Skivington, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 James Grindal, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Horacio Agulla.
Referee: Alain Rolland