Tigers reached their 9th consecutive Premiership Final as they defeated last year’s champions Harlequins 33-16 at Welford Road. Tigers scored 30 unanswered points either side of half time to seal the tie after Quins had built a 9-3 lead after the opening half an hour. Danny Care left the field in disgrace after a 53rd minute sin bin and Quins title defence was over.
Quins dominated the collisions in the first half and quickly built that small but crucial lead. Quins were pushing for the decisive score that would have taken them well clear. Danny Care looked as if he had broken the dam in the 27th minute but he hadn’t counted on Tom Croft’s super human capabilities. The lanky flanker targeted the ball after Care’s snip down the blindside and managed to dislodge the ball and prevent the try.
The quest for the decisive score was not over. As the clock crept past 40 the possession was still in the Quins half but rather than take a 9-6 halftime lead the Champions looked to slam shut the door and push their advantage home. It was a brave call but ultimately a foolish one, this time, as Ben Youngs swept up the loose ball to Flood who fed Crane then Goneva. The Flying Fijian rode the tackle of George Lowe and rounded under the posts for the day’s first try.
Then came Care’s binning for a deliberate knock on. These calls are always controversial and I struggle to see why players should be binned in such marginal cases but carded he was. Tigers took advantage of the extra man to score ten points in the period including a corker of a try from Niall Morris after superb build up work from Mat Tait and Manu Tuilagi down the left hand side.
If that hadn’t put the tie to bed then Tom Croft’s stunning breakaway from the halfway line sealed it. Toby Flood’s up and under was spilled by Ben Botica as Flood clashed with the quickly retreating Cole. In the confusion Tait swept up the loose ball, then fed Anthony Allen who drew his man and freed Croft on the outside right. He blazed through the gap between Luke Wallace and Nick Easter to go in for the try. This was a try that only Croft could score and shows why he has been selected for a second Lions tour.
The Tigers crowd is a jubilant mood now as Mat Tait turned from provider to finisher as Tigers went in for their 4th try. It was again down the right hand side as Tigers used a classical sweeping backs move from a strongly driven lineout. Morris put the after burners on the spped through the defensive line and his one handed inside lob found Tait who, after an initial confusion over the line, dotted down for Tigers’ 30th point in succession.
With the tie now dead the bench was cleared and Quins still had time to reward their large travelling support with a nice try after some swift inter-passing.
With the next day’s game providing Northampton as the opposition Tigers head down for their now annual trip to Twickenham awaiting a first ever derby match in the capital. Despite the large score line in many ways Tigers mugged Quins; all the tries were breakaways from within our own half and the Londoners only lost their moment after having to chase the game in the second period. With our record against the Saints in recent time I don’t think I can claim we are underdogs however the coaches will have plenty to work on in the coming fortnight.