Tigers bonus point offers hope

ULSTER DATE::Hooker Tom Youngs was on as a substitute for a minute before he completed a catch-and-drive line-out move to add meaning to the Tigers’ next game


Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 18

The Leicester Tigers kept their European Champions Cup knock-out stage hopes alive with a bonus point 40-23 victory over Scarlets on Friday.

Six tries from Miles Benjamin, Jordan Crane, Adam Thompstone, a Tom Youngs brace and Sam Harrison were just rewards for Leicester’s domination at the set-piece.

Scarlets were game throughout and scored tries through Rob Evans and a Harry Robinson brace, but apart from a short period at the end of the first half, when playing with a numerical advantage, they never looked likely to cause an upset.

Both sides came into the game needing a bonus-point victory to stay alive in the competition and Leicester face Ulster away in their final pool match with another win and bonus point being their best bet at reaching the quarter-finals.

Scarlets put the first points on the board through Bath-bound flyhalf Rhys Priestland, but then Tigers kicked into gear.

Quick ball from scrumhalf Ben Youngs, a miss-pass from flyhalf Freddie Burns and a clever flick from right wing Thompstone allowed fullback Mathew Tait to give powerful left wing Benjamin the chance to bulldoze through two stretched tacklers to touch down in the corner.

Leicester showed their intent when they kicked a penalty to the corner rather than going for the posts — the bonus paramount in their thoughts.

And they were rewarded with a catch-and-drive from the line-out forcing Crane over.

However, after that blistering first 20 minutes, the Tigers started to lose their way with dropped passes and a succession of penalties at the breakdown.

Priestland notched his second penalty and then the tide turned dramatically when Leicester lock Graham Kitchener was sin-binned on 32 minutes.

It took Scarlets just 60 seconds to capitalize as they played Leicester at their own game, kicking a penalty to the corner and then driving Evans over from close range.

Having spent the first part of the match chasing shadows, Scarlets turned around at the break trailing just 14-11.

Normal service was resumed once Kitchener returned, with Thompstone punishing a stretched Welsh backline to canter over.

Burns missed his first conversion of the evening, but the Tigers were now just one try away from their coveted bonus point.

And they earned it on 53 minutes as Tom Youngs, just a minute after replacing Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, popped up with the ball after another catch-and-drive line-out from close range.

Scarlets simply could not handle Leicester’s power in the set-piece, and Ben Youngs teed up his brother Tom for his second try after a break from the back of a ruck.

The Welsh outfit might have been beaten, but they were not bowed and perfectly delayed passes from centers Scott Williams and Regan King put wing Robinson over in the right corner on the hour.

However, flanker Aaron Shingler was sin-binned and Italy back-rower Robert Barbieri set up replacement scrumhalf Harrison for Leicester’s sixth try.

Before Shingler returned, Scarlets showed clinical finishing as Robinson was again found in space wide on the right for the ninth and final try of a thrilling match.