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Tigers edge Welford Road thriller

17th December 2011 12:06

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Manu Tuilagi LEicester try v Clermont hec 2011

Opening try: Manu Tuilagi

Heineken Cup Pool Four is still wide open after Leicester came from behind to edge Clermont 23-19 in a classic European clash at Welford Road on Saturday.

The result, combined with Ulster's bonus-point win away to Aironi, means that there is a three-way battle for top spot in the group with two rounds still to play.

Clermont enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the first half and took a 16-7 lead into the half-time break.

But Leicester came out of the blocks firing in the second half and the lead changed hands a number of times in a ding-dong battle.

It took just two minutes for Clermont to open the scoring as David Skrela slotted a neat drop.

Leicester were given a chance to reply almost immediately as the Tigers pack won a penalty at the first scrum but Toby Flood missed a relatively easy kick.

Morgan Parra doubled the lead on the quarter-hour mark with a drop of his own, but this time Tigers struck right back as Manu Tuilagi sliced through (with a little help from Horacio Agulla blocking Parra) to score.

Flood's conversion briefly put the hosts in front but Parra landed an excellent penalty to hand the advantage back to Clermont at the end of the first quarter.

Despite losing Skrela to injury, the French visitors struck a telling blow on the brink of half-time when Wesley Fofana launched an attack from turnover ball from inside his own half. One phase and two passes later the ball was spun out to Sitiveni Sivivatu in acres of space out wide and the former All Black had an easy run-in, his first touch down for les Jaunards.

Flood found the mark soon after the restart to cut the lead to six points before Ben Youngs' darting run and offload put Julian Salvi over for Leicester's second try. Flood added the extras to move Tigers back in front by a single point with half-an-hour to play.

But the lead was short-lived once again as Parra's second penalty bounced over off the upright.

Flood hit the target to restore the one-point gap and set up a grandstand finish going into the final quarter.

Both sides had chances to win it as the half wore on but Flood added another penalty with ten minutes remaining to stretch Leicester's lead to 23-19.

The home faithful roared their side on as they went in search of a crucial final try, which would have denied Clermont a bonus point, but it was not to be.

Nevertheless, the Tigers will be content after avenging last week's defeat and leapfrogging the French outfit in the tightest pool in this year's competition.

Just three points now separate the top three teams going into the final two rounds of matches.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Tries: M. Tuilagi, Salvi
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 3

For Clermont:
Try: Sivivatu
Con: Parra
Pens: Parra 2
Drops: Skrela, Parra

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Jules Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 George Skivington, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Julian White, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Ben Woods, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Scott Hamilton,

ASM Clermont Auvergne: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Julien Bonnaire (c), 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Jason White, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements:16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Nathan Hines, 20 Elvis Vermeulen, 21 Kevin Senio, 22 Brock James, 23 Gavin Williams.

Venue: Welford Road, Leicester
Referee: Nigel Owens

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