A fantastic first half secured Tigers their 75th Heineken Cup win and the bonus point as they beat Treviso 33-25. A penalty try plus efforts from Manu Tuilagi and a brace from Julian Salvi gave Tigers a half time lead of 26-7; but Treviso had the better of the second half and punished several Tigers errors to win the second period 18-7, they will be very disappointed not to have gained at least a losing bonus point.
Treviso had looked frisky on the counter attack but Tigers got the first score after 16 minutes. Manu Tuilagi’s powerful burst made room for Thomas Waldrom who took play to the 22, his wide pass to Goneva got Tigers a ruck within 10 meters of the line. Treviso failed to roll away and Tigers had the penalty. It was 0-0 so surely Tigers would take the 3 points? All the talk in the week had been about respecting the opposition, but when push came to shove Tigers actually treated with the distain we’d treat any low ranking Premiership opponent.
And it worked a treat too, after one collapse Tigers went for the scrum again and an almighty shove saw the Treviso pack crumble and Tigers march them back over the line. George Clancy saved Waldrom the trouble of having to touch down by awarding them a penalty try.
Tigers’ next score was capitalising on a Treviso mistake; from a turned over lineout Tammaso Benvenuti flapped at George Ford’s short pass and ended up propelling it towards his own line. Tuilagi needed no second invitation and pounced on the ball, brushing off the attentions of Vosawi to secure the second try.
5 minutes later Salvi burrowed over for his first try. The move started in Tigers own 22 as Ben Youngs dummied and took Sbaraglini on the outside. Good hands low down from Ford kept the move alive as the ball came wide to Hamilton, the ball then came left before Ed Slater straightened the line and put Thomas Waldrom through on the inside shoulder. We were camped on their line; with Ben Youngs looking to release the Tigers backs to the right Salvi went unnoticed as he picked up and went left. The TMO confirmed the score.
Straight from the kick off Treviso got a penalty for some very dull play by Geoff Parling. How he thought anyone, least of all the referee, would miss his blatant obstruction is beyond me. Treviso opted for the corner and went for a wrap around with Dean Budd attacking the short side; at first glance it seemed Tigers had defended stoutly and forced him into touch. But the touch judge wasn’t sure so went to the TMO who ruled in the Italians favour; despite heavy suspicions of a foot in touch.
On 37 minutes Tigers had a 4th try ruled out for a forward pass, Ford fed Goneva on a trademark inside line, he passed back outside to Thomas Waldrom who strolled under the posts. The referee was right in line and this was a tight call. Passes more forward than that went unblown today, but you can’t argue the toss too much.
Especially as Tigers again took the scrum and again profited from it. Once again they had gained an advantage from a good shove, this time Waldrom decided to play it but came up 5 yards short. Salvi, ever the scavenger, was on hand to show terrific strength to hold off Antony Pavanello, the Italian test lock forward, and hunt out the try line to secure Tigers try bonus point. The TMO was required yet again and once more ruled in favour of the try, this time despite not having the clearest of views though Pavanello would have needed an extra arm to prevent the grounding.
After half time the fizz went out of Tigers game. Tom Youngs and Vereniki Goneva were half time substitutes and took all the vim and vigour with them. Early on Gori broke from a lineout, and only a poor chip saved Tigers blushes. They had been warned.
Treviso’s second score was a cracker; McLean broke from full back taking play up to the 22, where Favaro the flanker continued the assult. Play switched wide left then back towards the posts where Lorenzo Cittadini ploughed over. For my money the man to take over from Castro at international level Cittadini had mysteriously been left out of the starting 15, this was his riposte.
Tigers killed any thoughts of a shock come back though with their 5th try. A lineout on half way was mauled infield until Treviso gave away a penalty, Ford pushing the kick to within 7 meters of the opposition line. The maul got the nudge and when it was dragged down Favaro paid the price for repeated infringements with a yellow card. Tigers took the scrum but couldn’t shift the Italian pack; it mattered not as play went wide, Manu Tuilagi throwing a superb pass (are you watching all the haters?) for Matt Smith to exploit the extra man and slide in in the corner.
A Matt Smith penalty for in at the side gave Alberto Di Bernado a chance to write his name in the history books as his penalty was the 2000th point conceded by the Tigers in the Heineken Cup.
This was when the wheels really came off for Tigers as Ayerza, Salvi and Parling all departed the stage. The lack of leadership was obvious as Tigers struggled to contain the surging Italians. They almost scored a try from a Tigers scrum on the Treviso 22. Loose control at the base from Jordan Crane let Gori pick his pocket, his hopeful pass found favour and found Vosawi who rampaged to within 3 yards of the line. Thankfully his pass was poor and forward so Gori was denied his try.
Restored to 15 men now they drove for the line from a ten meter line out, only coming inches short. Two pick and goes, one to their left then one to their right let Japanese winger Christian Loamanu squeeze in under Castro. Di Bernado missed the conversion, remarkably the first time Treviso has done that in the Heineken Cup this season.
3 minutes later and Treviso were back on the board again. Paul Derbyshire, Italian born and raised despite the name, made a rampaging 30 run to set them back up on Tigers 22, Logovi’i Mulipola was incredibly lucky not to see a yellow card for his off the ball hit on Di Bernado, but the referee did decide Graham Kitchener had competed for lineout ball unfairly so it all evened out. Quite lucky for this ref that his two big calls were made moot very quickly otherwise he may have been more of a talking point.
In the last ten minutes Tigers didn’t really know what they were doing, Treviso were searching for a 4th try and the double bonus point and setting about it reasonably well enough but we didn’t seem to know if we were to try to keep scoring or if we were to tighten up and secure the victory. More by default than anything else we managed to see out the ten minutes and the keep the Italians to 0 match points.
Treviso are a side that don’t need patronising so I won’t come out with any of the trite rubbish about “deserving” a point, they know you get what you deserve. The tables don’t lie and Treviso are about as good as Newport, Edinburgh or at a push Cardiff, we’d be happy enough with this scoreline against those sides so we can’t beat ourselves up all week about getting it against Treviso.