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Carter makes a winning start

14th December 2008 16:47

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Carter perpignan

Pricey Pivot: Dan Carter cuts his European teeth

Perpignan kept their Heineken Cup hopes alive with a clinical 26-20 victory over Leicester Tigers at Stade Aimé Giral on Sunday, with Dan Carter pocketing 16 points on an impressive European debut.

Fresh off the plane and with no more than five words of French, many adjudged the New Zealand superstar to be ill-equipped to save the Catalans from defeat and what would have been near-certain elimination from Europe.

But Carter's fluency in rugby is all that he needs - and it spread through his new side, leaving the Tigers tongue-tied.

Indeed, the visitors' tactics in the first half - kick for territory at every opportunity - were as one-dimensional as the paper they were so obviously written on. Perpignan simply crumpled them up and tossed them aside.

It was only in the last 25 minutes that the two-time champions began to attack with ball in hand - and with intent.

But by then it was already too late. Carter's Catalonian account was already doing brisk business, and one of Perpignan's less-exalted étrangers, South Africa's Gerrie Britz, had crossed for two tries.

Tom Croft and Scott Hamilton sparked Leicester's hopes of an upset with tries either side of half-time, but in the end the English giants have to make do with a losing bonus-point that keeps them level with the Ospreys, the leaders of Pool Three.

Carter started his seven-month stay in the south of France under immense pressure to live up to the hype.

At £35,000 per game, cynics might point out that each of his 16 points cost his new employers over £2,000. But by the look of the merchandising that festooned the stadium and its occupants, Carter might just pay for himself.

In any event, it took just 11 minutes to start repaying his new employers with a penalty to cancel out one from opposite number Toby Flood.

Just three minutes later Carter stepped up again, this time to stoke over the conversion after playing a part in the game's opening try from Gerrie Britz.

Nicolas Durand weaved his way past four defenders - one who looked to be blocked by referee Alan Lewis - to launch an attack from inside his own half, Carter kept the move alive along with Julien Candelon before flanker Britz shrugged of Geordan Murphy to canter over for the converted try.

Carter then added a penalty following Scott Hamilton's high tackle that left Adrien Plante in need of attention.

Matt Smith's legitimate challenge on Plante then prevented a second Perpignan try, but referee Allan Lewis brought back play for a penalty that Carter dispatched with ease.

Leicester were struggling for a foothold in the game, trailing 16-3 after 35 minutes, but were handed a route back before half-time by Croft.

Ben Kayser made the initial burst, scrum-half Julien Dupuy switched direction to the blindside where Ben Kay and Jordan Crane combined to send Croft over.

Flood reduced the deficit to 16-10 with the conversion and so it remained as Carter stunned the home crowd by missing two penalties in a row either side of half-time.

However, within a minute it was the poor kicking of Dupuy that hurt Leicester when Perpignan scored after the scrum-half's kick was blocked.

Damien Chouly charged down the clearance within yards of the line, the bounce evaded Flood and Britz grabbed his second from close range.

Carter's conversion handed Perpignan their biggest lead of the day at 23-10 just seven minutes into the second half, but that sparked an impressive response from Leicester.

Flood landed a second penalty on 55 minutes and after Candelon saw his try ruled out for a forward pass, Leicester made their passes stick to send Hamilton crashing over.

Flood's conversion brought the visitors to within a score at 23-20, and some fancy footwork from the England man had the French at full stretch in the final minutes of the game.

Harry Ellis then conceded a penalty for up-ending Carter in what look like a homage to the 'challenge' that soured the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand.

Unlike Brian O'Driscoll, Carter was able to pick himself up and continue - and he soon landing his fourth penalty after Crane failed held onto possession: three points that sealed Leicester's fate.

The scorers:

For Perpignan:

Tries: Britz 2

Cons: Carter 2

Pens: Carter 4

For Leicester Tigers:

Tries: Croft, Hamilton

Cons: Flood 2

Pens: Flood 2

The teams:

Perpignan: 15 Philip Burger, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Christophe Manas, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Julien Candelon, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Nicolas Durand, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Ovidiu Tonita, 6 Gerrie Britz, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Olivier Olibeau, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Sebastien Chobet.

Replacements: 16 Charles Geli, 17 Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 18 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 19 Jean-Pierre Perez, 20 Jérôme Porical, 21 David Mele, 22 Kisi Pulu.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Matt Smith, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Martin Corry, 3 Julian White, 2 Ben Kayser, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Marco Wentzel, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Harry Ellis, 21 Seru Rabeni, 22 Johne Murphy.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

Touch judges: Alan Rogan (Ireland), Jonathan Peake (Ireland)

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