Planet Rugby

Tigers' nous trumps Toulouse class

08th December 2007 17:22

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Yannick Nyanga tackled v Leicester

No way through: Yannick Nyanga is stopped in his tracks by the Tigers defence

Leicester Tigers scored a crucial Heineken Cup win on Saturday, beating Toulouse 14-9 at a sodden Welford Road and opening up Pool Six.

It was a mucky, miserable day of Leicester winter unless you were a Tigers' fan. Then it was a day when their side, playing with cohesive intensity, brought joy to packed Welford Road and well beyond as they beat the mud and sophisticated Toulouse to win 14-9.

They did not get a bonus point but Toulouse did and so the French side stay top of their pool with a mouth-watering return match between the two in Toulouse next weekend.

It was a fascinating match. Forget the Toulouse errors, for in fact the Tigers deserved to win. They deserved it for playing with a passionate intensity that Toulouse lacked.

Three units won the match - the Leicester pack, the Leicester halves and the Toulouse back three. The pack may have struggled a bit in the scrums where they conceded two penalties in a match of few (13) penalties, but they won the line-outs and they won the tackle/ruck hands down, ensuring Toulouse little good ball and no quick ball at all.

The Leicester halves - Andy Goode and Frank Murphy in the first half and Ben Youngs in the second when Murphy was replaced for injury - more and more controlled the match. They had the luxury of better ball but the boot of Goode put the better ball to good use.

The Toulouse back three, great internationals - Vincent Clerc, Cédric Heymans and Clément Poitrenaud - made too many errors. Poitrenaud's error gave Leicester their try. Clerc's error gave Leicester the lead and Heymans and Clerc combined to produce the forward pass that robbed them of a try on 76 minutes. (It may have been 76 minutes on the clock but there were still 12 minutes to play because of European rugby's anachronistic refusal to stop the clock for stoppages.)

Toulouse started as if they were going to run away with the match. The first time Goode kicked the ball Poitrenaud started a counterattack from the right that saw Yannick Nyanga bursting down the left. Toulouse won two turn-overs, took a quick throw-in at a line-out and were all over Leicester as Poitrenaud ran again and Florian Fritz broke. But their reward was just a penalty kicked by Valentin Courrent after 8 minutes.

Then a single act broke all that apart.

Again Toulouse tried to counter but Poitrenaud was tackled and lying on his back on his 10-metre line he popped the ball over the head of Clerc. Ollie Smith picked it up and raced away for the try. 5-3 after 12 minutes.

That try changed the game. Suddenly the Tigers took control and Toulouse started to make jittery errors.

Their next error nearly cost them a second try when Goode kicked high and Poitrenaud dropped the bomb. Leicester attacked left right and left but Louis Deacon ignored the referee's instructions and was penalised for obstruction.

Energetic Jordan Crane had a good charge when Leicester destroyed a Toulouse tackle/ruck. Then they attacked down the short side with Murphy prominent twice.

Toulouse were off-side and Goode kicked the penalty goal. 8-3 to Leicester after 29 minutes.

Toulouse mounted a brilliant attack - left, right, left, right and left again but then Clerc passed to Tom Varndell and the attack died.

Playing for Leicester was Aaron Mauger at inside centre, just a week after arriving at the club. After 37 minutes of the match he got a pass. He sliced a kick into touch.

Twice Leicester knocked on and twice Toulouse took advantage to attack but again their reward was just three points - a dropped goal by Courrent whose kicking with either foot was impressive.

Half-time came with the score 8-6 to the home team.

Early in the second half Toulouse took the lead when they countered off a knock-on advantage and Courrent goaled a penalty. 9-8.

Goode got the lead back on 54 minutes with a penalty after Clerc had passed back under pressure and Luke Abraham, doing a muscular Sébastien Chabal act, put huge pressure on Toulouse who conceded a penalty for incorrect entry.

After 57 minutes Toulouse put the ball into a scrum for the first time in the match! They threw in to 23 line-outs in the match to the Tigers' 12 but the Tigers had 11 scrums to their 4.

Toulouse did not look like scoring a try. They tried two drops in quick succession. Courrent's effort was charged down and Heymans's effort was ridiculous, surely the worst drop attempt in Europe this year.

Courrent kicked an up-and-under but Leicester drove back with a great defensive maul. When Toulouse collapsed the maul, Goode again kicked the goal. 14-9 - and the Tigers were beyond drop-goal danger.

Eventually, the referee had conversations with his time-keeper who got through to him that he could not have another scrum and should blow the final whistle. There must be more sophisticated ways of doing it!

Man of the Match: Shaun Sowerby was the pick of the Toulouse pack but he rather vanished, buried by Leicester power, in the second half. Valentin Courrent was the best of their backs but the Man of the Match would come from Leicester, safe-as-houses Tom Vesty, speedy Tom Varndell who chased everything with zeal, determined Luke Abraham, eager Jordan Crane of our Man of the Match Andy Goode whose kicking - accurate at posts and long out of hand - was a match-winner.

The scorers:

For Leicester:

Try: Smith

Pens: Goode 3

For Toulouse:

Pens: Courrent 2

Drop goal: Courrent

Leicester Tigers: 15 Sam Vesty, 14 Ollie Smith, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Luke Abraham, 6 Martin Corry (c), 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Julian White, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Marcos Ayerza

Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 James Hamilton, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Johne Murphy, 22 Seru Rabeni

Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yannick Jauzion (c), 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Cédric Heymans, 10 Valentin Courrent, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Thierry Dusatoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Fabien Pelous, 3 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 2 William Servat, 1 Daan Human

Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Omar Hasan, 18 Romain Millo-Chlusky, 19 Grégory Lamboley, 20 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 21 Maleli Kunavore, 22 Jean Bouilhou

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Touch judges: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Neil Ballard (Wales)

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