Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Tigers squeak past Stade Francais in 21-20 thriller

MOVING ON Leicester earned a semi-final clash with Llanelli after a late try and an Andy Goode conversion left the French side still searching for European success

AFP , LEICESTER, ENGLAND

David Skrela of Stade Francais, right, attacks the Leicester Tigers defense during their Heineken Cup quarter-final match at Welford Road in Leicester, England, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Leicester ensured that there would be no French representatives in the European Cup semi-finals for the first time since the 1995-96 season on Sunday as they edged past Stade Francais 21-20 in a thrilling quarter-final.

A late try by replacement Tom Varndell and the conversion by Andy Goode saw the Tigers rebound from 20-14 down to go ahead by a point leaving Stade and its flamboyant owner Max Guazzini still searching for their first ever European Cup.

It had looked like French flyhalf David Skrela had sealed their place in the last four with a drop goal but Varndell's try erased their hopes.

Leicester will now play Welsh side Llanelli, who beat holders Munster on Friday, while Leinster's conquerors Wasps will take on Northampton, who beat Biarritz earlier on Sunday.

Leicester skipper Martin Corry said watching from the sidelines -- he played 70 minutes before going off -- had been agony.

"I feel I aged several years sitting and watching that!" grinned the former England captain.

"The boys were just tremendous and showed extraordinary character," he said.

The first-half was full of free-flowing rugby with both sides preferring to run the ball than kick.

Fijian flyer Seru Rabeni grabbed the first try of the match for the Tigers as he ran on to a beautiful sleight of hand pass by Geordan Murphy and touched down.

Skrela hit back with a penalty before Stade took the lead through a brilliant solo try by Argentinian fullback Juan Martin Hernandez, who broke four tackles to score in the corner.

However Leicester retook the advantage thanks to two penalties by Goode, with the second one seeing French flanker Remy Martin yellow-carded.

Despite this Stade, thanks to Skrela's admirable boot, ended the half all square, while Goode could have had the hosts in front at the break had a penalty not bounced off the post.

Skrela restored the lead for Stade shortly after the break with another penalty while Leicester were not helping themselves by making a series of handling errors.

Goode replied in kind to bring the sides level again with just over 25 minutes remaining.

Leicester looked sure to regain the lead in the see saw encounter as Andy Tuilagi charged down the right wing and with the corner in sight, he was left dazed and confused in touch after a cracking last ditch tackle by Hernandez.

Hernandez then almost gave the game away as his kick from inside his goal area was charged down by England scrum-half Harry Ellis, but the ball went over the deadball line.

Ellis had to be treated for a couple of minutes having taken the ball full in the face.

Stade were back in the lead shortly after the hour mark as the metronomic Skrela converted another penalty to make it 17-14.

The son of the former French coach Jean-Claude produced what looked like the match-winning moment with just over 10 minutes remaining as he put over a superb drop goal leaving Leicester requiring a converted try to get past them.

However, Varndell collected a pass and ran past Mirko Bergamasco to touch down for his fourth try of the tournament. Goode converted to put them ahead by a point.

Skrela then tried the drop goal again but it went agonizingly wide.

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